Long before there was a Hallmark Movie Channel, there were prestigious Hallmark Hall of Fame Specials on television. They had strong casts, directors, and scripts, many adapted from the stage. Stars of stage, screen, and television–from Julie Harris to Maurice Evans to Helen Hayes to Blythe Danner to Jimmy Stewart to Carroll O’ Connor–were among the leading casts.
The spirit of Hallmark Hall of Fame Specials lives on in the perfect, leisurely paced, dramatic comedy Sorry by playwright Richard Nelson. Sorry is the third in Nelson’s THE APPLE FAMILY PLAYS quartet of works about one family set on 4 significant days in their personal lives. The play has heartbreak, humor, and politics on its mind, but it is absolutely not a tragedy, unless it too closely mirrors actual family dynamics to be in your entertainment box.
In Sorry, the eldest sister Barbara, middle sister Marian, and their elderly Uncle Benjamin, are awake at 5am when their long out of the country brother Richard arrives with two tasks to accomplish: voting in Obama’ s second run for the White House and putting their dementia impaired Uncle into private care. Nelson carefully creates of these characters as distinctive opinionated passionate people, but you know these Apple’s didn’t fall far from the same family tree.
Lovingly directed with a sharp eye to characterizations, Daniel Wilson‘s casting of this fine ensemble makes for a sweet 1 hr. and 45 minutes. Jeanne Paulsen, who is always away from our stages these days, is sensational as Elder sister Barbara. She shows a tough veneered but is perhaps the most lost and wounded character in the play. As middle sister Marian, Macall Gordon is believably wry and supportive, as she still battles losing her daughter to suicide a decade earlier. Leslie Law, one of Seattle’s most curiously underused vets, gives a perfectly pitched reading of the role of youngest sister Jane, with great laughter in her readings, and graceful naturalness. Terry Edward Moore as Richard should be hired to show how some of film and TV’s aging late thirties and early forties actors how this can be the time for the best roles and characters, based on the colors he brings out in this role. As for William Hall, Jr as Uncle Benjamin, this long time secret weapon of a distinguished actor is astonishing in his few speeches and breathtaking in his silences.
Roberta Russell creates such a perfectly detailed and realized set design that having the lighting designed by her as well is the meaning of “but of course.” Christine Tschirgi‘s costumes, mostly pajama wear and house clothes, absolutely hits the bullseye. In a week filled with events about family, pride, and fun, I can only say I am glad I saw this with a most important newfound family member. I’m proud of the cast and team at Sorry. It will be fun if I hear from anyone who thought about going, then DID after you read this.
Sorry from Thalias Umbrella runs through June 26 on The MainStage Theater at 12th Avenue Arts (1660 12th Avenue at Pine Street, Capitol Hill). For tickets and more info go to sorry.brownpapertickets.com