The Boston Repertory Association, under the direction of Michael Linenthal and Gerald Savory, has revived Mr. Savory's 12-year-old comedy, "George and Margaret," for its third production. It is a shallow, ordinary, domestic comedy, involving a British family of painfully familiar character types. It is also frequently very funny, mainly due to inordinately good acting and direction.
"George and Margaret" opens upon the breakfast table of the Garth-Banders, and as the members of the family tumble down to breakfast and begin to chatter unmercifully, the spectator finds he has been served: (1) a seemingly absent-minded but really very wise father; (2) an excitable, harassed but well-loved mother; (3) a sporty undergraduate son, much given to snappy, devastating insults; (4) a bouncy, easily-bruised daughter, much given to men.
The first act was a little disconcerting, for two reasons. First, the characters and plot revealed a lack of originality, as mentioned. Second, the difficulty of adjusting oneself to seeing the same actors, who only last week were so exciting as members of Shaw's Heartbreak family, reduced new to the hum-drum bickerings of Mr. Savory's Garth-Banders.
However, after the second act got under way, reconciliation set in, and with it an awareness that this sort of play frequently has great popular appeal, as attested by "John Loves Mary," "Kiss and Tell," etc., and the laughter in the Copley this week. Moreover, the very talented actors of the group are doing their best job to date.
Mr. Savory has directed his own play and of course he knows every comic possibility and embellishment. Such polished direction as he has given "George and Margaret" would have been virtually impossible in the short rehearsal time available to the group, had not Mr. Savory had the experience of the play's two-year London run to draw on. In a sense, then, this is the same production, having the benefit of Mr. Savory's fully developed and expert staging.
The guiding hand of the author probably also had a great deal to do with the fine acting, especially that of Hugh Franklin and Polly Rowles, as the father and mother. Their performances could hardly be improved upon. Mr. Franklin has been consistently creditable in all three plays, but this is the first time Miss Rowles has seemed satisfactorily cast. Joseph Foley is outstanding as the elder son and the Practical Man. His performance stands out way above the play itself.
The entrance of Frances Bavier in the last few minutes of "George and Margaret" is the damndest show-stopper I've seen. Tip-toeing on stage as the frightened and awkward new parlor main, Miss Bavier succeeded by pantomine in disrupting everything on both sides of the footlights for a few wonderful minutes of unbroken hilarity.
The directors of the BRA and this particular writer seem to have different ideas on what type of plays a repertory group should do. (Or it may be, what type of plays will bring in the customers.) "George and Margaret" is not suitable repertory material, but it is the "pleasant and amusing" comedy the directors said it would be. It is even uproariously funny is two or three instances, not a bad average, certainly. The acting couldn't be better and goes a long way towards covering up the pedestrian plot and characters.