Do people really wake up from drunken one-night stands wrapped in sheets?
Or was this trope conjured up in some long-ago decade to slip a bedroom scene past the censor, or to get a classier brand of actress to sign on? When a naked Michelle Mountain emerges gift-wrapped in a sheet from her nest of plum-colored bedding in Carey Crim’s Morning After Grace, a world premiere at the Purple Rose, I’d have thought it was a 1962 Doris Day film but for the granite countertops and smart stainless steel appliances on the set.
A man can’t say this without sounding like a drooling lecher, but I think I can–and I will, because it’s the only kind word I can muster for this production. In late middle age, Michelle Mountain is still pretty luscious. She’s been parading around the Purple Rose stage in half-dress for a quarter century now and looks as good as she did when she was playing ingenues. Here, as a sixty-ish woman named Abigail who wakes up on a strange couch, she held my eyes for most of the first act doing an extended reverse striptease. She trades in the sheet for a dress she finds in a closet, leaving it unzipped down her curvy naked backside, where it threatens to flutter off with every step. By the end of the first act, she’s securely clothed, though only after a strange shimmy where she buckles a bra over the dress, removes the dress, then puts on another dress. Whatever’s happening below the waist is left to our imagination–she’s standing behind a counter. Even as a stage bit, this maneuver shot its credibility one costume change earlier, when she ducked offstage to change from sheet to dress number one.
The stranger’s home in which Abigail wakes up belongs to seventy-year-old Angus (Randolph Mantooth–last seen in PR’s extra-superior Superior Donuts). They met the day before at a funeral, and as soon as they find themselves face to face, they run the screwball rom-com’s predictable obstacle course of misunderstandings. She sees a dress in the closet and thinks he’s a cross-dresser! He learns that she charges for her services and thinks she’s a hooker! If you were confounded by the way Abigail gets dressed, wait until you find out Angus’s relationship to the deceased. Hint: her name was Grace. And yet, Abigail is a grief counselor. Shouldn’t she have noticed a few signs? Didn’t he speak at the funeral? Weren’t people consoling him afterwards? It’s kinder to squint and pretend this is a hilarious farce that doesn’t require characters to have authentic motivations, except that the play eventually congeals into a syrupy mess about confronting loss and new beginnings. “Bacon dipped in syrup,” says a stoned Abigail dreamily, sucking on a bong filled with medicinal dope an otherwise buttoned-up Angus has surprisingly produced. She’s describing the breakfast she’d like to be eating but could just as well mean the lardy, sugary script she’s working her way through.
Morning After Grace continues at the Purple Rose through December 17.