STAGE REVIEWS : 'Monday' Another Osborn Find

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Paul Osborn's plays from the '30s are always being rediscovered. "Morning's at Seven" was the beneficiary of stellar revivals a dozen years ago. "On Borrowed Time" opens Sunday at the Pasadena Playhouse.

The Actors Co-op at the Crossley Theatre has dug up "Tomorrow's Monday," an even rarer find from the Osborn oeuvre .

It's a delicate yet delicious little comedy. Though it's set in a similar Midwestern environment, "Tomorrow's Monday" focuses on a younger generation than the old-timers who were the subject of "Morning's at Seven." Three dissatisfied siblings are at its heart.

Esther (Rebecca Hayes), 37, is a traditional spinster schoolteacher, desperate to keep her younger brothers by her side to make up for the vacuum in her own social life. But one of them fled the coop seven years ago--Richard (Greg Martin) found a respectable job in New York and married the wealthy but restless Lora (Diane Sainte-Marie).

Now college boy John (Adrian Colon) is chafing at the bit, despite the devotion of girlfriend Mary (Deborah Riecks). Esther engineers a crisis that brings Richard back home, with his wife in tow, and all of their frustrations collide.

Presiding over the scene with plain-spoken wit and wisdom is the mother (Brenda Ballard) of this brood. Father, who was a severely repressive minister, is dead.

The most problematic character here is Esther. Hayes makes her a fussbudget of alarming proportions, yet by the end we begin to understand the forces that made her wrinkled before her time. The final scene, where this understanding begins to be spoken out loud, stops too short.

But otherwise this is a beautifully proportioned piece. Director Alan Johnson maintains the comic rhythms, with Ballard's dry, clipped commentaries especially amusing. Yet we also feel the anguish.

The smallness of this heartbreak house is reinforced by the size of the Crossley stage, which has been masterfully lit by Russell Pyle.

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