Under the direction of Jules Aaron, Theatre 40 brings to life Mr. Pim Passes By, a charming comedy written by A. A. Milne, the creator of the much beloved children’s story Winnie the Pooh. A heartwarming tale of love in both young and old, it sets out to prove that nothing should get in the way of two people who are meant to be together.
When the loveable yet easily confused Mr. Pim (Jeffrey Winner) stops by the Marden household, he unwittingly drops a bomb when he casually mentions that the first husband of Olivia Marden (Roslyn Cohn), the lady of the house, is still alive. This sends Olivia and her current husband, the conventional George (John Wallace Combs), into a spiral, as they debate over which should prevail, love or the law. Meanwhile, George’s niece Dinah (Nathalie Rudolph) and her love interest, a poor artist named Brian Strange (Troy Whitaker), are intent on finding a way to persuade George to allow them to wed. When an embarrassed Mr. Pim returns to confess that he misremembered the name, and that Olivia’s first husband is in fact dead, Olivia decides to use this information to her advantage.
While the show starts off depicting the plight of the two young lovers, Dinah and Brian, it is the older pair who really brings heart to this show. As George and Olivia, Combs and Cohn capture the playfulness and maturity of an older married couple. A natural chemistry enables them to play off each other well and keeps their scenes lively and energetic. Casey Jones, as George’s sister Julia, brings a quick-witted, biting personality that adds some extra bits of humor. Yet it is Winner who steals hearts as the darling Mr. Pim. Though the titular character, he isn’t onstage very much — but when he is, he effortlessly commands all attention.
The lighting design (Ric Zimmerman) is cleverly manipulated to help distinguish between when a character is a part of the story and when they are merely providing narration. A change to blue light coincides with Ann (Laura Lee Walsh) stepping out to address the audience directly, to offer extra information about a character or scene. This greatly helps make those transitions feel less abrupt and awkward. The sound design (Gabriel Griego) underscores many parts of the show like a film — sometimes this appropriately enhances the mood of a scene, at other times it’s a bit distracting. In a couple key moments, the addition of emotional music makes certain scenes come off a bit melodramatic. The quaint set (Jeff G. Rack) — a country house living room with warm, brown-sugar hues — is incredibly inviting.