Posted in comedy, George Morfogen, Gus Kaikkonen, James Riordan, Jules Romains, Mitch Greenberg, Price Johston, Roger Hanna, scam, The Mint Theatre, timely

The Mistaken Country

There is something about the lure of the unknown that will turn men into adventurers.

James Riordan in “Donogoo” by Jules Romains. Directed
by Gus Kaikkonen
at The Mint. Photo: Richard Termine

“Donogoo,” at the Mint Theater through July 27th, is a tale of greed, mistaken geography, and the triumph of the imagination. Jules Romains’ delightful play originally opened in 1930 to great acclaim, saving the floundering Théâtre Pigalle from dissolution. 

Land speculation, gold fever, all roads lead to Donogoo Tonka, an error that turns into a scam. Benin (the superb Mitch Greenberg) plucks a suicidal Lamendin (James Riordan, who is fantastic) back to life. At the direction of the quack psychologist Miguel Rufesque (George Morfogen) to whom Benin sends him, Lamendin seeks out a stranger,  Le Trouhadec (the ever versatile Morfogen again), a disgraced geographer, to assist.

Le Trouhadec’s discovery, the lost city of Donogoo Tonka  may not exist. Lamendin sees an opportunity.With the help of a questionably honest banker, Margajat (Ross Bickell in top form), Lamendin forms a stock company to develop the mineral-rich city and its environs. Shareholders (Megan Robinson, playing all the women in the play, and Kraig Swartz, among them) begin to question the existence of Donogoo, but prospectors have already begun to turn the fiction into a reality.Le Trouhadec is vindicated.

The translation by Gus Kaikkonen, who also directs with a deft delicacy, is impeccable and elegant. The applause the sets, by Roger Hanna, and special effects, by Hanna with Price Johnston, elicit are well-merited. The exceptional ensemble are all in perfect step, doing justice to the material’s subtle and satiric humor. Among these standouts, Scott Thomas as Joseph, the sensible pioneer, catches the eye.

“Donogoo” is seriously funny, with a sharp and sincere wit. And this production is terrific.
The Mint Theater doesn’t just “find lost plays,” it uncovers their relevance.

For tickets and to learn more about “Donogoo,” visit The Mint’s website.

Posted in aging, comedy about a serious subject, George Morfogen, joy, life and death, Richard Abrons

Living is about hope and joy

Janet Sarno as Mrs. Marcus, Teddy Coluca as Figliozzo, Bern Cohen
as Feltenstein (seated), and Evan Thompson as Grossman
in Richard Abrons’ “Every Day A Visitor.” Photo by Ronald L. Glassman.

Living to a ripe old age, as the somewhat unfortunate expression goes, has its drawbacks.

In Richard Abrons’ new comedy, “Every Day A Visitor,” at The Clurman in Theatre Row through December 14th, those disadvantages include bickering, monotony, and a diet too dependent on lentils and cabbage.  

Bob (Raphael Nash Thompson,) the orderly who oversees an old-age home in the Bronx, inspired by Figliozzo’s (Teddy Coluca) deciding to “be” Fiorello LaGuardia,  finds a way to liberate those in his care. Play acting at politics is part of his scheme.

Henry Packer as Davidowitz, George Morfogen as Stoopak, Teddy Coluca as Figliozzo, Joan Porter as Mrs. Levy, Raphael Nash Thompson as Bob and Janet Sarno as Mrs. Marcus at a home for the aged in the Bronx in Richard Abrons’ “Every Day A Visitor,” at Theatre Row’s Clurman Theatre through December 14th.  Photo by Ronald L. Glassman.

Bob appoints the melancholy Stoopak (George Morfogen) president in an effort to bring him closer to the other residents. Tilly Marcus (Janet Sarno), always game to play at anything, dons a hat and becomes Bella Abzug while Albert Grossman (Evan Thompson) eagerly takes on the persona of Alan Greenspan.

Even Feltenstein (Bern Cohen), the curmudgeon in residence, enjoys being Henry Kissinger.

Teddy Coluca and Joan Porter in a scene from
“Every Day A Visitor.”
Photo by Ronald L. Glassman

Thanks to this little scheme of let’s pretend, this
home for the aging is no longer dull. Stoopak’s laws include “Joy” and that no one of them should die alone. “Every day a visitor,” he decrees so that each of them would have company during a hospital stay.

Richard Abrons has written a sweet play about hope and community. Even in an end of life setting, there can be fun and the Stoopak rule of “Joy.”

The cast of “Every Day A Visitor,” ably directed by Margaret Perry, form a fine ensemble. Standing a little bit ahead of the pack is Joan Porter as Mrs. Levy, whose labor union duets with Davidowitz (Henry Packer) add a wonderful touch of harmony to “Every Day A Visitor.”

 For more information about “Every Day A Visitor,” visit them at Telecharge.

Posted in A Picture of Autumn, ancestral home, comedy, down and out nobility, drama, England's Chekhov, family comedy drama, George Morfogen, memories, N.C. Hunter, theater

Home is where the heart is

Home is also where habits are respected and remembered, and memories treasured.

Jonathan Hogan as Sir Charles Denham and George Morfogen as his brother Harry in N.C.  Hunter’s “A Picture of Autumn,” in a Mint Theater Company revival. Photo by Richard Termine.

In N.C. Hunter’s “A Picture of Autumn,” revived to perfection by the Mint Theater Company and on stage through July 27th, the ancestral home is a bit of a decaying pile. In 1951, “A Picture of Autumn” was produced in England as the first in a series of gentle drawing room comedies.

Jill Tanner as Lady Margaret, George Morfogen as Harry Denham, Jonathan Hogan as Sir Charles, Paul Niebanck as Robert and Katie Firth as his wife, Elizabeth. Photo by Richard Termine.

Despite the inevitable comparison to Chekhov, Hunter brought a crisp and distinct voice. His failure to gain traction as a great English playwright may be attributed to the voices of discontent made popular by John Osborne’s “angry young men” and Joe Orton’s strange and flamboyant characters. The drawing room was replaced by the union hall, the dockside, or other more ordinary venues. The realism of the 1970s wanted a grittier reality than that of aging nobility and its bewildered children.

Paul Niebanck as Robert Denham and Barbara eda-Young as Nurse in “A Picture of Autumn.”
Photo by Richard Termine.

As in Chekhov’s works, “A Picture of Autumn” focuses on the decline of an aristocratic family, the Denhams. Sir Charles (Jonathan Hogan) and Lady Margaret (Jill Tanner) make up the household along with Charles’ brother Harry (George Morfogen) and the equally aged Nurse (Barbara Eda-Young) who is more served than servant. Sir Charles and Lady Margaret have two boys, the ne’er do well Frank (Christian Coulson) and his decent but plodding civil servant brother Robert (Paul Niebanck). Robert is appalled by the letters of complaint he’s gotten from his mother during his service in Africa. Moved by his parents’ inability to keep up the old house, has decided to help by selling Winton Manor to a governnemt agency.

George Morfogen as Harry and Helen Cespedes as Felicity in a scene from “A Picture of Autumn.
Photo by Richard Termine.

Hunter was never much produced state-side, with his only Broadway foray being A Day by the Sea featuring Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn in 1955. He fared better in England where the plight of impoverished lords and ladies dotting the post WWII country-side was better understood.

Be grateful to the Mint for bringing Hunter’s work the attention it deserves. “A Picture of Autumn” gets truly proper treatment under Gus Kaikkonen’s fine direction and with this wonderful ensemble. The performers were all top-notch, with George Morfogen adding sparkle to the production. The young Helen Cespedes as Felicity, the daughter of Robert Denham’s wife’s Elizabeth is a welcome new talent and makes a superb ingenue. Jill Tanner is wonderful as the doyenne reduced to cooking and shopping; her Margaret is a perfect unwilling  but loving caretaker.

For more information about “A Picture of Autumn,” please visit http://minttheater.org/.