Thursday, December 06, 2012

“The Sir Roger De Coverley Papers”

Last Friday evening, we attended a performance of "84 Charing Cross Road", James Roose-Evans’s stage adaptation of Helene Hanff’s slim 1970 bibliophile memoir, at Theatre In The Round.

Theatre In The Round is the oldest theater company in the Twin Cities. Theatre In The Round will celebrate its 60th birthday next month; it predates The Guthrie by ten years.

We enjoy attending performances at Theatre In The Round. The theater is intimate—and Theatre In The Round will frequently offer works ignored by other local companies. Theatre In The Round is prone to present French plays (otherwise never staged in town), British plays ignored by The Guthrie (only Theatre In The Round welcomes the plays of Simon Gray), and forgotten 1950s plays (in which the company seems to have forged a specialty). If one is to catch a William Douglas-Home or Jean Anouilh play in the Twin Cities, it will always be at Theatre In The Round.

The version of “84 Charing Cross Road” presented at Theatre In The Round was Roose-Evans’s revised version of the play, prepared in 2007. Roose-Evans’s original 1981 version, a staggering hit in the West End but a major flop on Broadway, had been a two-character vehicle. The author’s 2007 revision is a much-expanded version of the 1981 original—the play has been enlarged to eight characters—and bears more than a little resemblance to Hugh Whitemore’s 1987 screenplay for the Anne Bancroft-Anthony Hopkins film.

We enjoyed the performance. The production was a good one, and the cast was quite fine.

“84 Charing Cross Road” is very small-scale fare, without theme, without profile, without staying power. It is, however, a pleasant and intimate look into a warm, 20-year, trans-Atlantic friendship, a friendship based upon England’s long and distinguished literary history. I have experienced worse pastimes.

“84 Charing Cross Road” is the only play I know that includes a reference to “The Sir Roger De Coverley Papers”—and that distinction, alone, sets the play apart from anything else written for the stage in the last hundred years.


When we go to the theater, it is most often on a Friday night. Since Joshua and I and my middle brother all work downtown, it is easy for us to meet up somewhere after work on Fridays, have dinner, and go see a play.

My parents, as a general rule, go hear the Minnesota Orchestra on Friday nights. The Minnesota Orchestra, unlike the Minnesota Legislature, is no longer in session, so my parents joined us on Friday for “84 Charing Cross Road”. It was a nice evening out for them; they enjoyed the performance.

This coming weekend is Christmas Tree Weekend. Early Saturday morning, we shall go to the nursery and pick out two Christmas trees, one for my parents and one for my older brother’s family.

Saturday afternoon will be devoted to decorating my brother’s family’s tree. Sunday afternoon will be devoted to decorating my parents’ tree. For my niece and nephew, it will be two consecutive days of fun, pre-holiday excitement and celebration.

A celebration of a different sort will be held on Sunday night.

My niece will be four years old on Sunday. We shall convene her birthday celebration once the tree is trimmed.

One of her birthday presents is a hard-to-locate copy of “The Sir Roger De Coverley Papers”—but please don’t tell her, as we would like the gift to be a surprise.


Josh’s sister will arrive a week from Saturday. She will stay with Josh and me throughout the holidays—except all three of us will go to Oklahoma for a week at Christmas.

We are not confident we can offer much to amuse her. We plan to take her to The Guthrie Theatre to see a performance of Carlo Goldoni’s “The Servant Of Two Masters” and we plan to take her to the Minneapolis Institute Of Arts to see the Terracotta Warriors Exhibition from China (which Josh and I have already visited).

Otherwise there is not much on in town.

To provide Josh’s sister with some entertainment, we may have to resort to reading aloud from “The Sir Roger De Coverley Papers”.

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