COME HEAR A NIGHTINGALE SING IN WESTPORT
A cup of good strong tea, Earl Gray or chamomile, with a biscuit, is often the solution for any problem that occurs. A British tradition, the “cuppa” represents comfort and consolation no matter what the difficulties are. Problems come in all sizes and levels of anxiety, some easily resolved, others overwhelming in their implications.
For the Stott family in Newcastle, England, caught in the midst of World War II, tea is its remedy of choice time and time again in C. P. Taylor’s “And a Nightingale Sang.” Westport Country Playhouse will be setting the table for tea in the kitchen, on a complete and cleverly utilitarian set designed by Kristen Robinson, until Saturday, June 27.
Fortunately, Americans only had a taste of terror when the Towers were attacked. For millions of people across the globe, the fear of bombings and military attacks are a constant threat during wartime. C. P. Taylor concentrates on one family at one moment in time and creates a personal glimpse into three generations and how they cope, trying to live day to day, while the world around them crumbles.
Brenda Meaney’s Helen is the wonderful narrator of the tale, the one everyone turns to for advice. Her younger sister Joyce (Jenny Leona) is in a dither on whether or not to accept the ring her soldier boyfriend Eric (John Skelley) is offering. Their mom Peggy (Deirde Madigan) is busy feeding the clan and attending church services while their dad George (Sean Cullen) can be found singing songs and playing the piano, when he’s not serving as an air raid warden.
Grandpa (Richard Kline) is alternately packing to find a new place to live or unpacking when he returns home, working on plans to bury his pet pooch Jackie properly or protecting his feline Tippy from dangerous gases, a gift form Hitler. When Helen isn’t giving her wise counsel to needy family members, she is taking a brass ring chance on happiness with Norman (Matthew Greer), a soldier who professes to love her, despite her problem with her leg and her self-perception of being plain.
As the world collapses around them, the Stotts suffer setbacks, like air raid scares, rationing, curfews, blackouts, all caused by the war, as well as their own personal troubles. David Kennedy directs this finely tuned cast in a convincingly real and honest portrayal of a family trying to survive the events they cannot control.
For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off route 1, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
The title of the play comes from a line in a popular 1940’s song “And a Nightingale Sang in Berkely Square.” Come hear it and many other sentimental tunes as the Stott family bickers and bonds and bounces back from their everyday struggles to survive and, hopefully, to eventually thrive.