That same pulpy nostalgia rings forth in American Players Theatre’s (APT) production of the 1933 comedy, which opened Saturday at the Spring Green outdoor amphitheater. However, the author’s mastery at crafting characters and APT’s consistently uncanny capability to rise above the limitations of its material make this three-hour production surprisingly enjoyable despite its occasionally tedious treacle.
The coming-of-age narrative focuses on Richard “Dick” Miller (an engaging Steve Haggard), one of four children of newspaper owner Nat Miller (Henry Woronicz) and wife Essie (Tracy Michelle Arnold), cornerstones of little Waterbury, Conn.’s genteel society. Home and hearth is very much the familial focal point, and scandal and indecency are measured in socialist screeds and verses from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. (The play’s title derives from Quatrain XI of Edward Fitzgerald’s translation.)
Woronicz, new to APT, provides the play with a
wonderfully conceived moral touchstone, creating appropriate chemistry with his
earnest, albeit lost son and his doting wife, whom
Director John Langs provides a steady hand to the play’s narrative rudder, which helps APT’s production steer clear of the sentimental shoals that could have wrecked what in the end results in an enjoyable and engaging summer evening.