Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Director Jackie Maxwell has ably guided her cast, led by Marsha Mason and the exemplary Andrew Long, through a script that combines (sometimes a bit clumsily) elements of drawing-room comedy, melodrama, and wartime thriller. Mason is Fanny Farrelly, a Washington grande dame, and Long is Kurt Müller, her German-born son-in-law and an activist in the anti-fascist underground.
The story begins on a spring morning in 1940 as Fanny and her son David (Thomas Keegan), a lawyer, await the arrival of Kurt and his wife Sara (Lise Bruneau), whom they have not seen since their wedding 20 years earlier, with their three children. Fanny has also opened her elegant country home to Teck De Brancovis (J Anthony Crane), a Romanian count with little money, and his wife Marthe (Natalia Payne), a childhood friend of David's.
As played by Long, Kurt is a man whose integrity depends on his opposition to tyranny. He's not noble or seeking glory, he's grounded and does what he has to do, and his resolve radiates from every line he speaks. Bruneau stands proudly beside him, resolute and helping the cause as she can while protecting their children: idealistic Joshua (Ethan Miller), serious Babette (Lucy Breedlove), and precocious Bodo (Tyler Bowman, who gets to show off).
Mason's portrayal makes obvious how Fannya privileged woman who wants to control the lives of the people she loveslearns that some things in life just aren't that clear cut. Crane does his best with a role that Hellman has written as villainous from the beginning: Teck, the cultured but shallow European who dismisses his wife, sucks up to Nazi diplomats, and lives off other people.
Scenic designer Todd Rosenthal has created a tastefully furnished living room in the center of the Fichandler Stage, although the domed roof suggests his recent design for Carousel in the same space. Judith Bowden's costume designs range from the serviceable outfits of Kurt, Sara, and their children to Fanny's refined, slightly old-fashioned dresses.