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The Manor



 
The Manor, Theatre 40’s break-out hit now celebrating its 15th year, brings together the veteran group’s stellar acting stable with a fictionalized account about a prominent Los Angeles family in the site-specific location for the production that just happens to be the actual baronial mansion, Graystone Manor. Newcomers to LA will revel in the historical ambiance, the spectacular costuming and the stately pace of the action as three different audiences follow the “MacAlister” family from the 1920s wedding of young Sean (Shawn Savage) to Abby (Shelby Kocee), daughter of attorney Frank Parsons, well played by Martin Thompson.

The mansion is every bit as important to the experience as the attractive family, a galaxy of business partners, domestic workers, and most importantly, Gregory Pugh (Caleb Slavens), the brooding young man who once caught Abby’s eye. From Sean’s initial distrust, he and Greg develop a solid friendship.  Along with his gauche wife, Henrietta (Annalee Scott) Greg soon becomes a fixture in the younger McAlister’s home.

Meanwhile, though, the patriarch, Charles MacAlister (Darby Hinton, who originated the role) strikes a deal with Senator Alfred Winston (Daniel Leslie) that will prove to be his undoing.  All the ingredients fall into place for a nearly-true unfolding of one of early 20th century LA’s most scandalous business dealings, along with a tragic end for at least one of the younger generation.

It’s easy to imagine being a fly-on-the-wall when events first unfolded some 80 or 90 years ago. Although the mansion is now a public space, Theatre 40’s production returns the venerable manor to more youthful days and one can almost feel the atmosphere soften with welcome as the three-fold audience troops through the rooms, hallways and grand staircase.

For this iteration, well-known actress, Flora Plumb, has directed her actors with tight-knit precision.  Both Darby Hinton and, in the performance I saw, Carol Potter, commands the cast.  Shawn Savage plays young Sean while Shelby Kocee carries the play as his conflicted bride, As Henrietta, Annalee Scott has a star turn singing “Pretty Baby.” Daniel Leslie as the Senator makes for a compelling weasel, while Melanie MacQueen as his wife and Carol Potter have a lovely scene together. 

Theatre 40 presents The Manor  through January 29, 2017, at Greystone Park, 905 Loma Vista Drive, Beverly Hills CA 90210. Call (310)364-3606 for reservations.  For information on Theatre 40’s upcoming production, Late Company, see www.theatre40.org.