By Simon Stephens; Directed by Lila Neugebauer
Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club
Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 12.19.21
New York City Center Stage I, 131 West 55th Street
by Maria Paz Alegre on 11.3.21
Blair Brown and Edie Falco in Morning Sun. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
BOTTOM LINE: This stream-of-consciousness-style play begins as a trickle and slowly picks up speed to become a rushing wave of raw and deeply moving theatre.
When stream of consciousness is used in storytelling, it can often take some time to get used to. Most live performances don’t necessarily include such an audible and active narrative of thoughts and feelings. But in Simon Stephen’s Morning Sun, all three actors engage in this river of the seen and unseen. The central character is Charley, played by a masterful Edie Falco. Accompanying her are Blair Brown and Marin Ireland, both of whom deftly embody different people in Charley's life, effortlessly switching from parent to child, partner, or friend, and occasionally functioning as a Greek chorus of her inner psyche. Often finishing each other's sentences with interjections of what was thought or felt at the time, the trickle of their words begin to slowly flow into the river that is the story of Charley’s life.
As Charley is a born-and-bred New Yorker, much of the beginning functions as a love letter to the city, centering around Greenwich Village. Insider knowledge of local haunts abounds, including nods to the ghost at Cherry Lane and drinks at the White Horse Tavern, will be sure to delight New Yorkers. But while pleasant, the story of Charley’s childhood coupled with an unconventional theatre style can be challenging to adjust to. It is only when Charley moves into parenthood that Morning Sun begins to pick up steam.
Although the cast of famed theatre actors are all giving master classes in acting, there is nothing glamorous or sensational about the characters they portray. The people, usually female, are ordinary women living ordinary lives, working in mundane positions in unenviable jobs. But it is in these ordinary moments that Morning Sun consistently transcends the banal, at times becoming magnificent. The physical decline of an older family member, the scathing insults from a critical parent, the day a partner becomes violent, the feelings of inadequacy as a parent—all these intensely personal stories prove almost universally relatable; some audience members audibly gasped and wept with an empathy that felt palpable. The AIDS Crisis, September 11th, and the many other events that define New York City resonate deeply, bringing a much needed urgency that builds the play to a dramatic fever pitch. While Morning Sun begins with a slow and quiet ascent, its sunset is truly astonishing.
(Morning Sun plays at New York City Center Stage I, 131 West 55th Street, through December 19, 2021. The running time is 1 hour 40 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Tuesdays at 7; Wednesdays at 2 and 7; Thursdays at 7; Fridays at 8; Saturdays at 2 and 8; and Sundays at 2 and 7. Tickets are $99 - $139 and are available at nycitycenter.org or by calling 212-581-1212. For more information visit manhattantheatreclub.com.)
Morning Sun is by Simon Stephens. Directed by Lila Neugebauer. Scenic Design by dots. Lighting Design by Lap Chi Chu. Sound Design by Lee Kinney and Daniel Kluger. Costume Design by Kay Voyce. Original Music by Daniel Kluger. Hair and Wig Design by Tom Watson. Production Stage Manager is Laura Smith.
The cast is Blair Brown, Edie Falco, and Marin Ireland.