Front Row Center
By Michael Warren
Too Soon For Daisies
By W. Dinner & W. Morum
Directed by Sally Jo Bartlett
I have tried to discover something about these two playwrights Dinner and Morum. Between them, they are responsible for 48 plays written between 1943 and 1988 – this play Too Soon for Daisies falls in the middle of that period – but that is all the information I can find. So far as I can tell, none of these plays have been produced in the West End or on Broadway. These authors are mysterious and anonymous, and I surmise that the names Dinner and Morum are a pseudonym for Queen Elizabeth or one of her courtiers. No doubt she used her influence to get the plays published.
Anyway, the play’s the thing! There are these three old ladies who have escaped from a sad existence at Eventide, a retirement home for the elderly and impoverished. They land in a rowboat somewhere in Suffolk, and find an empty house which they hope will be their new home. “Freda” is played with considerable energy by Anne Drake – she frequently has to remind the other two that you have to fight for your happiness. Suzanne Forrest (surprisingly this is her first appearance on the LLT stage) is dreamy and slightly crazy as “Joy” who writes bad poetry on the back of napkins. And Phyllis Silverman plays “Edie” who used to be a pickpocket, presumably in London – I suspect that there were many in the audience who had a hard time deciphering her cockney accent. “Paul Vanderbloom” shows up fresh off the boat from Australia to enjoy his new house. He conveniently dies almost immediately and the ladies hide his body in the old well. No one will ever know! (Unfortunately John Foster was unable to play his part due to an unexpected domestic crisis, and a last-minute rewrite had Vanderbloom die offstage).
Jon DeYoung plays an old busybody doctor in heartily genial style, and then a young woman “Jackie Jackson” arrives to find her uncle’s new house. Cydney Supan McMinn does a great job as Jackie, complete with red and black hair and tattoos – welcome back to Cydney after a lengthy absence from the LLT stage. There are also some other villagers who appear in the second Act with Douglas Pinkerton (who was delightfully enthusiastic) as a local handyman, and Kevin Leitch as a policeman. These two are also newcomers to the LLT stage. Finally I should mention Orry Robb as the paper boy whose right hand appears momentarily on stage. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of him soon.
It’s a convoluted plot with lots of comings and goings, and with the dead body hauled back on stage in a large box marked THIS SIDE UP. It could be a funny, even possibly a hilarious play with poignant overtones, but unfortunately it isn’t. I think the problem lies with the writers, whoever they are. The play is not humorous enough to be a comedy, nor is it dramatic enough to be a drama, nor mysterious enough to be a mystery. As a result the cast is required to be frantic in order to maintain the energy of the action, and sometimes the lines were lost amidst the excitement and confusion. This is the second play this season featuring old or senile people, and a third play (Best Wishes) was about a family returning home for a funeral. Let’s take a break from funerals and retirement homes – some of us are still able to walk and talk and think, all at the same time!
Although I question the choice of play, Sally Jo Bartlett did an excellent job in staging it and also gave us some new faces on stage. The energy level was high and the audience certainly enjoyed the show. Thank you, Sally Jo, for your casting choices. The set was well constructed – bare at the opening, and gradually becoming furnished during the play. I was impressed by the huge table (how did they get it on stage?) and also the wheely thing which transported the box with the dead body in it. Congratulations to Sally Jo and all her cast and crew for a tremendous effort. Graham Miller was Stage Manager and Beth Leitch was Production Assistant. And now I look forward to the musical which will be directed by Dave McIntosh. The Drowsy Chaperone opens on February 16.