The Autumn Garden by Lillian Hellman is a reflective piece from the foremost playwright of our time, having authored The Children’s Hour, The Little Foxes and Toys in the Attic, among many others. Hellman, however, considers The Autumn Garden to be her best work and the one she enjoyed writing the most. Reminiscent of Chevkov, this three-hour play leisurely evolves to reveal seven old friends in the autumn of their lives, trying to sort out the truth of their existence through finely nuanced performances, and takes place in the guesthouse of a former mansion outside of New Orleans.
The exquisite set design by Tom Buderwitz fills the entire stage and features a patio with metal latticed walls, sliding doors, and a liquor cart, and in the main room, lovely Victorian furniture and a frequently used staircase. Director Larry Biederman moves his actors about in a most natural and deft manner.
Every cast member has his or her moment in the spotlight, but the most memorable performances are by Kurtwood Smith as General Griggs, who is resolutely resolved to end his marriage to flighty Rose, (Rhonda Aldrich) trying in vain to regain her youth, the grandmother Mrs. Mary Ellis, (Dawn Didawick) who gives a feisty no-nonsense performance, and the flashy Nick, a failed artist, (Jeffrey Nordling) and his caustic wife Nina (Kitty Swink). (As a drunk, Nordling has no equal.)
Also notable is Josh Clark as Edward Crossman, the loner of the group, who is mistakenly in love with lovelorn Constance (Shannon Holt).
The Autumn Garden is showing at the Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., ending December 19. Tickets for Thursdays and Fridays are $30 and are $34 for Saturdays and Sundays. For reservations, call (818) 506-1983, or visit www.Antaeus.org.