By Sandi Durell
Is it reality to think that once one has reached middle age that missed opportunities and roads not taken can be recaptured? British playwright N.C. Hunter (1908-1971) raises not only this question, but brings human frailties, disappointments, loneliness and relationships into focus in the Mint Theater company’s first production of their new season and at their new home at the Beckett Theater at Theatre Row.
It’s 1953 at the Dorset seaside home of the Anson family consisting of the overbearing, complaining matriarch Laura (a pragmatic Jill Tanner), her older brother David (witty George Morfogen), their lonely housekeeper Miss Mathieson (Polly McKie), the live-in drunk Doctor Farley (Philip Goodwin), Mrs. Anson’s visiting son Julian (Julian Elfer), the protagonist in his 40s who has devoted his life and energies to his work with little time for sociability. The family’s solicitor/accountant William Gregson (Curzon Dobell) is also present.
Julian has spent his recent time in Paris as an employee of the Foreign Service and is surprised and angered when a visiting upper level associate Humphrey Caldwell (Sean Gormley) tells Julian he is being called back rather than extended mainly because he’s much too serious and doesn’t allow himself enough time for basic rest and relaxation as evidenced by the little vacation time he takes. But it is this jolt that makes him sit up and take notice of his childhood female friend Frances Farrar (Katie Firth), who is also visiting the Ansons, together with her two children, that he didn’t adequately respond to her advances years prior leaving her to marry an older man who dies, and remarry a younger man whom she has recently divorced. He now feels personally responsible for all her bad choices and difficulties and wants to rectify it by marrying her to correct the past. But can one really start again? And would the outcome result any differently?
It’s this question that director Austin Pendleton endeavors to answer as he wisely moves his talented cast from garden to beachside picnic (Charles Morgan, set design). Life’s puzzle of growing older juxtaposed with youth, and the nature of human temperaments and frailties become more focused as the three-act “A Day by the Sea” blossoms in an all too lengthy and tedious 2 hours 55 minutes! But it does have its many moments of humor and heartfelt sincerity.
Frances’ children are adorably played by Kylie McVey and Athan Sporek.
Performances run thru Sept. 24 www.minttheater.org Beckett Theater, West 42 Street
Photos: Richard Termine