Broadway

He Says: Morning Sun Shines Down Beautifully on an Ordinary Woman Living an (Extra) Ordinary Life

He Says: Morning Sun Shines Down Beautifully on an Ordinary Woman Living an (Extra) Ordinary Life

Am I safe?” she cries out into the darkness, unsettling the air in the room sharply. These words ring out, pleading and pulling us deep down inside the dark well that is Morning Sun, Simon Stephens’ somewhat captivating new creation currently playing at Manhattan Theatre Club’s New York City Center Stage I. Directed with a tender finesse by Lila Neugebauer (Broadway’s The Waverly Gallery), the deconstructed layerings of what makes a fundamentally ordinary life meaningful, an act Stephens (Heisenberg, Sea Wall) is so good at creating, plays out like orderly snippets of a distinct past, echoing a walk to the clinic alongside ghosts. The tale is about no one special, but someone entirely important to those that surrounded her throughout, and most meaningful for those who can say that they saw the sunshine shudder in her presence.

Blair Brown and Edie Falco in MTC’s Morning Sun. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Delivering some of the most spectacularly engaging performances so far this season, Edie Falco (Broadway’s The House of Blue Leaves, New Group’s The True), Blair Brown (Broadway’s Copenhagen, Second Stage’s Mary Page Marlowe), and the always intriguing Marin Ireland (ATC’s Blue Ridge, TG/CSC’s Summer and Smoke) shapeshift their way through the history of a woman and the city she struggled within and against. They find captivating emotional connections to this woman through the complex writing and the interpersonal interactions that existed inside all those characters that these extra-fine actors morph so easily into, one after the other, to our amazement. It’s hypnotizing, watching these magicians find their inner physical and emotional magic with such a force, as we register the unremarkable, yet remarkable life of a woman named Charley (Falco).

Edie Falco, Marin Ireland, and Blair Brown in MTC’s Morning Sun. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The pain we hear in those opening moments is Charlotte McBride’s, but we don’t know it yet. The voice beseeches, crying out into the air, etching the framework of the space with fear and need. “Have you got me?” she wants to know, desperately reaching out from a dark place of fear with pleads for connection and safety. It registers deep and almost childlike, somewhat confusing us as to where this story is beginning and ending. But we soon discover, thanks to Stephens’ tender and easily engaging writing that this play is about this woman and where she is in her life, moment to moment, crisis to crises. With simple ease, we are drawn through the years on a sparse set orchestrated by dots design collective; with straightforward costumes by Kaye Voyce (Broadway’s Sea Wall/A Life); stingy subtle lighting by Lap Chi Chu (Public’s Mlina’s Tale); and an echoing deep sound design by Lee Kinney (Broadway’s Is This A Room) with original music by co-sound designer Daniel Kluger (Broadway’s Oklahoma!). The design doesn’t bring this piece any clarity or connectivity, keeping the characters far from one another, rather than delivering us an intimacy that this piece could have used a bit more of. But the actors work hard keeping us involved, even when the space between the souls is too full of emptiness.

Falco is a quiet straight-forward force to be reconned with though, finding a deep solid connection to the humanistic core of this woman, as she digs up a character that is defined and detailed from within. No surprise here for the actor who has a solid gift of finding gold within the ordinary (check out this scene from “Nurse Jackie“). Brown and Ireland, identified solely as numbers 2 and 3 in the Playbill, lend a supportive but infinitely important stance, creating the landscape for Charley to walk through, side by side, with all the characters these two can forcibly dig up. 

Blair Brown and Marin Ireland in MTC’s Morning Sun. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Can I stop you there?” one says to another, reminding us what and who this journey is all about and for. Brown unpacks authentic perfection in her roles, particularly the mother who is told that “This isn’t your story.” She unearths a maternal figure from the ground up, and delivers her to us as naturally as can be, but with complications etched in deep. The narrative unfolds its precise roots in the dirty landscape of New York City, delivered mostly by the captivating and utterly compelling Ireland, who walks us down that path without sentiment or drama. There’s warmth in her voice, especially in the inconsequential, softening her stance when needed, but never forgetting the pathway forward. The play doesn’t always hold our attention completely, losing or forgoing its powerful engagement that these three actors are working so hard to envelop and maintain, but the Morning Sun feels good, simple, and true. It’s connecting rays fill the space with light in this lovely little theatre, making us glad for the rising of this Sun and the grace and talent of these three artists.

Edie Falco and Marin Ireland in MTC’s Morning Sun. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

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Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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