By Robert Simonson
04 Jun 2002
Bob Dishy will take the place of the departing Christopher Lloyd as the agonized Carl in the hit Broadway revival of Paul Obsorn's Morning's at Seven. Lloyd leaves June 16 to play Malvolio in Central Park's Twelfth Night.
Dishy is a theatre veteran last seen on Broadway in Arthur Miller's The Price opposite Jeffrey DeMunn and Harris Yulin. He won a Tony nomination many years back for Sly Fox.
Lincoln Center Theater recently announced that Seven would extend at the Lyceum Theatre through July 28. The show began previews March 28 and opened April 21 to rave reviews. It was to have closed June 16.
Five of the play's nine actors were nominated for Tony Awards: Elizabeth Franz, Frances Sternhagen, William Biff McGuire, Estelle Parsons and Stephen Tobolowsky. The cast is rounded out by Buck Henry, Piper Laurie and Julie Hagerty.
Morning's at Seven concerns the doings of four Midwestern sisters (Franz, Laurie, Sternhagen and Parsons) and three of their husbands (Henry, Lloyd and McGuire), all in their golden years, as well as Sternhagen and Lloyd's middle-aged son, Homer (Tobolowsky), and his longtime fiancee (Hagerty). 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 plays the disapproving David Crampton, who looks down on all the other characters in the play.
Hagerty is another performer best known for her film work, notably the broad spoof, "Airplane!," and the Albert Brooks satire "Lost in America." She plays 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, as 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 re-emerge 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 bitter spinster 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 plays the dim Ida Bolton.
Finally, as the deceptively "mild" Cora Swanson, Parsons, while best remembered for her Oscar-winning turn in Bonnie and Clyde, and Roseanne's mother on the sitcom of that name, 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 design team includes John Lee Beatty (sets), Jane Greenwood (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting) and Scott Myers (sound).
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.
To view Playbill On-Line's Brief Encounter interview with director Daniel Sullivan, click here.