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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
TEN CHIMNEYS
at Theater at St. Clements

HOUSE FULL OF STARS
By ROBERT L. DANIELS

  (L to R) Julia Bray, Byron Jennings, Carolyn McCormick and Michael McCarty/ Ph: Carol Rosegg

Tara and Manderley are quite likely the most familiar estates in literature and motion pictures, but Ten Chimneys was the summer home and private estate of the Lunts (Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne), the celebrated acting team of the first half of the last century. Katherine Hepburn called the retreat in Genesee Depot, Wisc., “a sort of dream of extraordinary care, beauty and taste.”
 
Ten Chimneys, a new play by Jeffrey Hatcher and a presentation of the Peccadillo Theater Company at the Theater at St. Clements, is a pleasant drawing comedy that focuses on a houseful of theatrical residents and guests who are about to rehearse a production of Chekhov's The Seagull. Lunt and Fontanne are acted by a real-life married couple, Byron Jennings and Carolyn McCormack.
 
The houseguests include a young Uta Hagen, acted persuasively by Julia Bray. This is a kind of manipulative actress who is making an important career step by appearing with the highly acclaimed team. She would move on to star with Jose Ferrer and Paul Robeson as Desdemona in the landmark production of Othello.
 
The other guest is the portly actor Sydney Greenstreet, who appeared in four plays with the Lunts before his great success in Hollywood at Warner Bros. as Casper Gutman in The Maltese Falcon and his teaming with Peter Lorre in The Mask of Dimitrios and Casablanca. Apparently Greenstreet's mentally ill wife was in a nearby sanitarium. The Lunts described him as “300 pounds and a head like a cannonball!” Michael McCarty plays Greenstreet with admirable bluster right down to the familiar grunts and guttural chuckles.
 
Jennings is elegantly flippant as Lunt, and McCormack boasts the stately glamour and incandescent air that was Lynn Fontanne. Hatcher has captured the theatrical flair and pulse of the era, much like the spirited spoof of the Barrymore clan in The Royal Family by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber.
 
Dan Wackerman has staged the piece with a kind of reverent nod to the era and its flamboyant inhabitants. Added atmosphere is provided by the Noel Coward recordings “Something to Do with Spring” and “A Room with a View.” Granted not a great deal happens here, but it's all so very pleasant.

 


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