Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills closes out their 2017-18 season with A.A. Milne’s MR. PIM PASSES BY, a light comedy about a man who makes an announcement of a person assumed to be dead is well alive, and a young lady’s desire to wed her fiancé, an aspiring artist.
The setting is the humble country homestead of Olivia and George Marden (Roslyn Cohn and John Wallace Combs). They receive a visit from Caraway Pim (Jeffrey Winner) where he makes a statement that Olivia’s former spouse is not deceased, but very much alive. Since she is already married to George and has been for some five years, this would mean that she may have two spouses, making her a bigamist. Mr. Pim has been known to be a bit absent minded as he becomes confused with names. Meanwhile, their niece Dinah (Nathalie Rudolph) is engaged to marry Brian Strange (Troy Whitaker, alternating with Jacob Osborne) a budding artist who is into creating cubism paintings. Adding to these episodes is the presence of Aunt Julia (Casey Jones), as well as Ann (Laura Lee Walsh) who serves as on-stage narrator giving the details on what is taking place within the household.
This play was written by Alan Alexander Milne, an author of plays and poetry active in England in the early part of the 20th century. He would be forever known for his later creation of a series of stories for children featuring a stuffed bear named Winnie The Pooh. But before Pooh made its debut in 1925, Milne composed Mr. Pim and was first presented for the stage in 1919. With such British plays from this era, it’s very talky. Every character has a lot to say during each plot progression, even though the title character Mr. Pim has minimal stage time. His character first arrives only to leave, and makes an on-and-off appearance.
In this Theatre 40 production, the setting takes place in the USA (Woodbury, Connecticut), where everyone speaks with American accents. Also, the period these antics takes place is in the present. This contemporary setting gives this play its appeal, even though much of the dialogue lasts longer that one would expect in a stage program that occurs within a domestic setting in the time of “now”. As to the cast, Roslyn Cohn and John Wallace Combs as Olivia and George are center stage in this show as they go through their motions. Nathalie Rudolph as Diane and Troy Whitaker as Brian are the younger pair that perform as proper as the elder leads, just in a youthful stance. And though this play takes place in the present era, these couples, as well as the rest of the cast, are free from using contemporary devices i.e. cell phones. This is just because there was no real need to use anything that can transmit a call, although the Mr. Pim character as performed by Jeffrey Winner, has a desire to hand mail a letter! His character is perhaps the most amusing one of them all. His persona resembles the character performer Marvin Kaplan, who was known to play “nebbish”-types. Although this Mr. Pim isn’t exactly a milquetoast, he does come rather close!
As to what’s seen on stage that has nothing to do with actors delivering their lines, Michele Young provides the costuming that ranges from casual outfits to Mr. Pim’s grey suit. And Theatre 40’s residential set designer Jeff G. Rack provides the living room space for the “House of Marden” where at center stage is a wide entrance doorway where the drapes will hang. A minor plot point contained has Olivia creating a set of drapes that holds a mid-20th Century pattern to it–a design that wouldn’t become a hit for another thirty or so years from 1919!
MR. PIM PASSES BY can be seen as a curio stage piece of sorts as this play isn’t performed as much due to its amount of dialogue spoken, as well as its length! (Theatre 40 took measures of cutting this piece from its original three acts down to two without missing any of its continuity.) Whatever the case, the production is charming and witty. The humor may not have any belly laughs, but it’s still pleasant to witness on the Theatre 40 floorboards.