Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Morgan Yard" registers a success as one-woman show

Cleveland Press December 15, 1973

"The Morgan Yard" has a cast of six but it is the nearest thing to a one-woman show the Play House has offered.

The one woman is Evie McElroy and the play could have been written as a vehicle just for her.

In other respects, however, the play is a collection of things remembered, of situation and cliches put together from other plays. Now and then it has flashes of humor, of witty and original observations that offer promise of something better that never materializes.

The production which opened at the Play House Brooks Theater last night is a world premiere in the sense that it is the first fully produced version of the work. A reading presentation was done two years ago at the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theater Center in Connecticut.

The situation is that of the eccentric little old lady who defies the establishment In "The Morgan Yard" she is 61-year-old Carrie Morgan who is defending the family cemetery (the Morgan Yard of the title) from the Army which wants to bulldoze it and bury nerve gas bombs there.

Playwright Kevin O'Morrison is an actor who has appeared in more than 50 television shows according to the program notes. All 50 have rubbed off on his play.

A cross between situation comedy and soap opera the play works best as comedy.

But then, perhaps desiring to make something better or at least different out of his play, the playwright gives it a Greek tragedy ending.

The setting for all three acts is a graveyard high in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. Defending this mountain fortress is the rifle-toting Carrie Morgan, a gun and a knife strapped to her waist.

Her grandson Jess (Douglas Jones), an Army private, and his lieutenant (John Bergstrom) try to reason with her. So does the mayor (Robert Snook). Her daughter (Jo Farwell) doesn't reason so much as argue with her, being ashamed of the graveyard all her life, a place she calls a dump and an eyesore.

Only Carrie's son, Barry B (Allen Leatherman), a double amputee, is on her side and then for his own reasons and he doesn't come along until the third act.

"The Morgan Yard" is a series of dialogs, most of them designed to tell what has happened in past years. All of this exposition is broken up with small incidents which pass for drama.

When there isn't someone trudging up to the cemetery with whom Carrie can converse, she talks to her dead husband, buried there since 1936. She tosses a word or two at other gravestones

That's the play, pretty much -- Carrie talking while she prepares a dynamite charge, swigs 180 proof whiskey or strings barbed wire.

Some of the dialog is genuinely funny. Some of it gets a trifle too philosophical and folksy with overtones of Robert Frost. "A cemetery is a place where we go to do the last thing for each other that we can't do for ourselves."

The theme of the individual vs. the unfeeling establishment gets lost as it runs into another one about how things happen that we didn't plan for. The latter is used to accommodate a sudden shift into bloody tragedy at the end.

Jonathan Farrell has directed the play with an eye to breaking up the long speeches with some sort of stage action. He has managed to alter the static quality of the play without straining which is about the most anyone could do under the circumstances.

Holding all of this together and making it better than it is, is Evie McElroy.