"MRS. MANNERLY" PERFECT IN POLITE SOCIETY


BONNIE GOLDBERG

In today's world, politeness and manners seem to be fighting a losing battle with rudeness and aggression. Perpetrators of road rage are rarely ordered to attend etiquette classes, but maybe they should be. Decades ago, our teenagers were often sent to learn about decorum and deportment, how to greet people, what to say to make conversation, what constitutes the proper way to set a table and eat a meal, how to be a young lady or young gentleman. Dancing classes were considered an important part of the mix as was the perfect way to pen a thank you note.

Today's youth know how to text and tweet and when they get together at a party they send messages across the room so they don't have to actually exchange words of conversation. Emily Post and Miss Manners would be appalled.

Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher is charmingly reliving those days of requisite lessons in behavior in his autobiographical comedy "Mrs. Mannerly," being presented with appropriate flair and style by TheaterWorks of Hartford until Sunday, November 17. Raymond McAnally is the ten year old Jeffrey, who would rather attend manners classes than be on the Little League team in Steubenville, Ohio. He knows he can't succeed on the baseball field so he pins all his hopes that he can win kudos in the dining room.

For at least three decades, or since dirt was born, Mrs, Mannerly, a determined and dedicated Dale Hodges, has been teaching the youth of Steubenville how to place forks in the correct pattern and how to drink tea in proper society. Dancing lessons and good posture are also drilled into the little minds of her students, who compete for the coveted "silver spoons" that are pinned to their lapels if they are extra specially correct.

Jeffrey knows that the big day of reckoning is coming, when the class will appear in their finery in front of the members of the Daughters of the American Revolution to display all they have learned. They will be graded for their efforts and no one in all these years has ever achieved a perfect score of 100. Jeffrey is determined that he will be the first. What happens to him on the way to the top is deliciously funny. How he eliminates all his competition is truly ingenious. Will Jeffrey resort to blackmail, using secret information about Mrs. Mannerly he has uncovered, to give himself an edge? The two leads play off against each other in a decidedly witty exchange, overseen by director Ed Stern.

For tickets ($40-65), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org. Performances are Tuesdays-Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Learn with Jeffrey how to fold a napkin, that it's never okay to lie, how to pour tea by status not age, never to say 'what' but rather "I beg your pardon" and interrupting someone is a crime. Will you become one of Mrs. Mannerly's prized pupils?

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