"And a Nightingale Sang" at Westport Playhouse Through June 27
By Tom Nissley
A beautiful tale of love and wartime is playing at Westport this month. C.P. Taylor’s portrait of the semi-functional Stott family in Newcastle, England, during the years of World War II, is decidedly human and sometimes very funny. Peggy, the mother, deeply entrenched in her Catholic devotion. George, the father (Sean Cullen), just as deeply entrenched in his devotion to the piano and patriotic songs. Joyce, the younger daughter, (Jenny Leona), wondering whether she should say yes to Eric (John Skelley) before he goes off to fight the Germans [she does, but never is sure about it]. Grandpa Andie (Richard Kline) -- forgetful, practical, witty, and negotiating the problems of old age.
And then there is Helen, the oldest daughter, played by the very capable Brenda Meaney. Helen is a slight cripple, with a painful difference in the length of her two legs. She is the narrator and the center of the family. Never expecting to be liked by a boy, because all her life she has been an ugly duckling in her own self-awareness, Helen is surprised and then delighted when Eric’s soldier buddy Norman (Matthew Greer) takes an interest in her, pulls her out of herself and becomes, with her, an item of defiance against all the norms that might interfere with their wartime romance.
“And a Nightingale Sang” is Helen’s story, her unfolding, when she least expected to unfold. It doesn’t have a happy ending, except for the war being over, but it leaves only a sweet taste of growth and maturity behind. Directed by David Kennedy, on a flexible set by Kristen Robinson, with lighting by Matthew Richards, sound by Fitz Patton, and costumes by Michael Krass, the play is charming and a special treat.
Tickets and information at www.westportplayhouse.org or 203-227-4177.
Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre