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The Hummingbird’s Tour

Anne O'Sullivan, Susan Pellegrino, Ray


                                    by Eugene Paul


Sixty plus Mattie (Susan Pellegrino) all adither, frightened delight on her face, waves ditherishly out the huge windows at someone, then skitters off.  Seventy plus Norton (Ray Baker) comes down the front stairs, looks around, darts into the living room and climbs to his favorite spot up the library stairs, hides behind a colored sheet.  Constance (Lynda Gravatt) moseys carefully with her cane into the living room archway, casts a jaundiced look at the premises, slowly walks off. We have just met these people but already we know that Mattie and Norton, despite their years, are still children, living in their  special playhouse, atop a mystical hill in a California we never knew.

Set designer Cheryl Liu has created a charming, whimsically decorated environment and those huge windows everybody looks out of are, of course, all across the front of the stage, which gives her absolute license to set the inevitable face fronting couch right smack at us.


Susan Pellegrino and Anne O'Sullivan 


And who enters?  A breath of fresh air?  Sister Lucy (Anne O’Sullivan). Not exactly.  Lucy, all smiles, limber beyond her years from all her Yoga, decked out in her Indian finery, has come for a little visit to Mattie and Norton who’ve been more than a trifle leery of her flibbertigibbet ways.  Not that they’re any prizes themselves. For instance, Mattie has just made herself a  Bunny outfit, very pink,  plus the required ears and cottontail, for Easter.  She loves Easter. All those good things for children.  Not that she has any of her own, she’s a spinster.  And Norton pretty much crawled into his shell when his wife died years ago, reverting to the adolescent nerd he once was.  And Constance?  Constance used to keep house for them when she was able bodied.  Now, she’s old, still lives there, still collects a salary.  They cosset her.  She’s retired into full big mother mode for these kids.  Lucy who has just turned up is their “hummingbird” who flits from flower to flower, husband to husband. All of them empty, empty lives.


Susan Pellegrino, Ray Baker and

                      Pictures courtesy of


So they clutter their lives.  Not only with things, but with wishes, with memories, with  anything that will take them out of themselves, even magical, spiritual wonderments, until wonderments come right into the house.  One of Lucy’s guru types invades their kitchen and is so luminescently magical we’re never allowed to see him, presumably because we would fall under the spell he’s cast over them.  Not Constance.  No, she’s got a harder head than that. Although, there is something a teeny bit eery about her sometimes.  The guru we never see is asked to leave, and does, but not before leaving an envelope for each of them.  What’s inside?  Dast we find out? Then he walks to the front lawn below the house, and as they watch, he rises in the air and disappears.  They swear.  They all see it happen.


That kind of whimsical, wishful thinking is the way director John Augustine has approached playwright Margaret Dulaney’s play, which is not what playwright Dulaney needs. Her play needs a firm grip and a clear mind.  You cannot go along with her spiritual bonhomie  or everything fritters away, into offstage happenings defying gravity and sense which we are asked to believe because her characters experience these magical moments. They are her sugar coatings for “End of Life” as the characterization of the play has been dubbed. And there’s the rub.  We are to believe that Lucy, Mattie and Norton see these levitations before their astonished eyes. But (a), we don’t, (b) we should have if playwright Dulaney really wants to pull our chains, and, worst of all, (c) the actors themselves are not convinced.  Then how could they convince us?  Well, there’s also (d) Aw c’mon. Really? And (e) What’s it supposed to mean? Just go with the flow?  It’s a play. You can do stuff like that in a play.  Yes, you certainly can.  If you’re good enough. It all starts with the play.  This one is a mere wisp.


Susan Pellegrino as Mattie has flashes of genuineness that could have led somewhere if it was there in the first place. As is the case with Anne O’Sullivan playing Lucy., whose “humming bird” attributes suggest so much more than appears.  Lynda Gravatt, emptiest of all as Constance, pours a full press on the role and achieves the most substance. Ray Baker as disengaged brother Norton is marvelously handsome at his advanced age but hasn’t a clue.  And no director gave him one.


No, It’s not an “End of Life” play.  These ancient children obviously have another thirty years of emptiness ahead of them. It’s pleasant.  And nice to look at.  And nobody’s a bad person.  Pass the sour cream and onion potato chips.


The Hummingbird’s Tour. At St. Clement’s Theatre, 423 West 46th Street.

Tickets: $59-$99. 866-611-4111. 110 min.  Thru Nov 22.