world, as opposed to the grimness of the Newport show, though it takes
even longer to complete.
You don't rush Foote's characters, and director Martin Benson doesn't
attempt to. His staging emphasizes the lackadaisical nature of the
playwright's Southern territory with its offbeat relationships, its giddy
gossip mongers and -- in this case -- its regional humor, some of it
strained by traumatic events.
"Getting Frankie Married" is the mission of the elderly Mrs. Willis --
here played by the illustrious Nan Martin -- whose son Fred (Joel
Anderson) has been courting his girlfriend Frankie (Juliana Donald) for
about a quarter of a century without putting a ring on her finger.
Martin's character is determined to see her son married before she passes
on, an event which may be imminent.
Fred, however, hasn't been altogether faithful in his relationship
with Frankie, as we learn when the trashy Helen Vaught (Sarah Rafferty)
sues him for breach of promise. Seems Fred once offered to marry Helen,
though he claims he was too drunk at the time to remember. This event
provides the catalyst for a hurry-up wedding, but the honeymoon is
short-lived as Helen creeps back into Fred's life with a vengeance.
Martin excels as the frail, aging mother who must be helped in and out
of the living room to participate in the action, an achingly realistic
performance. Anderson underplays skillfully as an awkward 42-year-old
mama's boy who bends to the prevailing winds, while Donald wins affection
as a gamine beauty upset by her role as the pawn in this familial chess
Fringe characters provide much of the humor, particularly the
effervescent Linda Gehringer and the taciturn Hal Landon Jr., a
May-December relationship that's about to expire. Gehringer offers a
rich, flashy depiction of her thrice-married good-time girl, while old
pro Landon steals his scenes with remarkable subtlety, drawing roars of
laughter with underplayed words or furtive gestures.
Three town gossips create a single ensemble character as Annie