Frank Matthews. Annapolis '48, has made a fine, offbeat choice for his Hayloft Dinner Theater - "Mister Roberts," which began its sturdy career the same year he graduated. This revival is worthwhile, rewarding to those who've only heard of it and those who remember it well.
The Thomas Heggen-Joshua Logan adaptation of Heggen's novel remains a stirring play, able Ralph Redpath heads an excellent cast and even the goat is appealing. Having covered the Baltimore tryout. I was impressed to find that the play's glow remains - indeed. It is deepended by its accurate reporting of the World War II generation. Those who don't understand their fathers will learn a lot from "Mister Roberts."
Heggen's heroes were victims of a painful disease, boredom. For most of the 12 million who served around the globe, it was hurry-up-and wait under some incredibly obtuse officers in crummy, dreary surroundings. Lt. Roberts and the crew of U.S. Navy Cargo Ship AK-601 are in Pacific backwaters on supply service.
The play's continuing vitality lies in its shrewd construction and respect for characters. As the youong officer who tries to take the crew's side against the absurd tyrannies of the captain, Roberts is a good, modest man, respectful of responsibilities. Literally imprisoned on the ship, the men are recognizable human beings, not the boring erazies who so obsess some of today's dramatists.
Cutting a few minor characters and supers has not upset the play's flow, and Terry Kester has directed with fine feeling for comedy and pathos. Redpath reaches the inner steel of Roberts beautifully, a role intimately associated with Henry Fonda and such successors as John Forsythe and Tod Andrews. Arn Weiner's captain is a strong assured performance and David Long's Doe is in fine, easy control. Vincent Clark's Ensign Pulver is a neat picture of uncertain bravado and Jennifer Miller, as the sole girl, makes much of her scene. Michael Rothaar's Dowdy, Jared Kelly's Insigna and Michael Haney's Mannion are others who use opportunities well.