A confluence of seasoned stage and film talent will convene under the proscenium of the Lyceum Theatre on March 28, as the Lincoln Center Theater revival of Paul Osborn's bittersweet and evergreen comedy, Morning's at Seven begins previews.
Contributing to the decades of acting experience to be found on the stage are well known stage figures Elizabeth Franz, Frances Sternhagen, William Biff McGuire and Estelle Parsons as well as the predominantly cinematic talents Buck Henry, Christopher Lloyd, Piper Laurie and Julie Hagerty. Tony Award winner Dan Sullivan directs the cast, which also includes Stephen Tobolowsky.
Morning's at Seven concerns the doings of four Midwesterns women and three of their husbands, all in their golden years. As such, the plot offers ripe opportunities for mature actors and actresses. The title is taken from a Robert Browning poem that includes the line, "Morning's at seven/God's in his heaven/All's right with the world."
Film actor ("Short Cuts") and screenwriter ("The Graduate," "To Die For") Henry makes infrequent stage appearances. Among the most memorable was that of a funeral director in Jeffrey Hatcher's Three Viewings at Manhattan Theatre Club. Henry also appeared in one of the casts of Art on Broadway. He will play the disapproving David Crampton, who looks down on all the other characters in the play.
Lloyd, who will play Carl Bolton, is know for a host of off kilter, raspy voiced eccentrics, first on television as Reverend Jim on "Taxi," and then in such films as "Back to the Future" and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." Last fall, he starred in the Geffen Playhouse's Los Angeles premiere of Yasmina Reza's The Unexpected Man. Hagerty is another performer best known for her film work, notably the broad spoof, "Airplane!," and the Albert Brooks satire "Lost in America." She will play Myrtle Brown.
Laurie, who plays Esther Crampton, was last seen on a New York stage a decade ago in Larry Kramer's The Destiny of Me, playing the mother of Kramer stand-in John Cameron Mitchell. She began her career as the pretty, redheaded star of lightweight Hollywood comedies, before impressing audiences with her dramatic portrayal as Paul Newman's crippled girlfriend in "The Hustler." Thereafter, she suddenly retired from film, only to reemerge 15 years later as Sissy Spacek's religious fanatic mother in "Carrie." She was nominated for Oscars for "The Hustler," "Carrie" and "Children of a Lesser God." On television, her cult status was confirmed by her involvement in "Twin Peaks."
Franz, who plays Aaronetta Gibbs, climbed to the first rank of American stage actresses when she won a Tony for her portrayal of Linda Loman in the Robert Falls-Brian Dennehy revival of Death of a Salesman. Prior to that, her most famous credit was probably the title role in Christopher Durang's Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You. Since Salesman, she has played Holocaust survivor Lola in Donald Margulies' The Model Apartment at the Long Wharf Theatre.
Sternhagen has won Tonys for The Good Doctor and The Heiress. Rarely away from the stage for long, her most recent appearances include Ancestral Voices as New Jersey's George Street Playhouse and The Exact Center of the Universe Off-Broadway. She will be Ida Bolton.
Finally, as Cora Swanson, Parsons, while still best remembered for her Oscar-winning turn in Bonnie and Clyde, and Roseanne's mother on the sitcom of that name, she still frequently acts on stage. She starred in Happy Days at Hartford Stage in 1998 and in The Cocktail Hour at the Cape Playhouse in MA in 2001.
The 1939 play — as well as Osborn himself — was nearly forgotten by 1978, when director Vivian Matalon staged the work at the Academy Festival Theatre in Lake Forest, IL. Some New York producers saw the mounting and decided to move it to Broadway's Lyceum Theatre, where it became one of the biggest fluke hits in American theatre history. The production was widely praised and ran 564 performances. (The original staging has lasted just 44 performances.)
The 1980 Broadway production featured memorable late-career turns by Lois de Banzie, Gary Merrill ("All About Eve"), Nancy Marchand (The Cocktail Hour), Teresa Wright ("Mrs. Miniver," "Shadow of a Doubt") and Maureen O'Sullivan.
Following the 1980 success, producers and theatre companies raided the neglected oeuvre of Paul Osborn, hoping to find another lost treasure, but nothing matched the performance of Seven. The last major revival of an Osborn play was On Borrowed Time at Circle in The Square. The show featured George C. Scott in his second-to-last New York stage appearance, Nathan Lane as a character representing Death, and Teresa Wright in her final stage role.