Continuing their celebration of their 100th season, ten plays from ten decades continues with a play brought from up from the roaring 20s. Mr. Pim Passes By, written by famed author A. A. Milne.
Should you see it?
For all he had to say, he oughtn’t have said anything at all.
When a befuddled old fart, the titular Mr. Pim, visits the Marden family to get a letter of introduction to some further acquaintances of his, a misspoken word throws the marriage of George and Olivia Marden into chaos – which may just be to the benefit of young Dinah and her beloved, Brian Strange.
Mr. Pim Passes By was written by famed Winnie the Pooh author A. A. Milne in 1919. Milne was a popular playwright even before the huge success of his Pooh books, and Mr. Pim Passes By was no exception, having itself been very successful in the 20s. I’m sad to say that Mr. Carraway Pim (Barry Caiger) should have just kept on trucking rather than making another pass. His is not a timeless tale.
The main story of the play was the state of the marriage between George and Olivia Marden, her second, and the scandal caused by the revelation that her first husband may not have died after all. Unfortunately there was barely anything in the way of dramatic conflict through this A-story, which left some quite long scenes between these two characters kind of tedious. This could be because there was next to no chemistry between Robert Hicks and Jenny Sheffield, who played the Mardens. I just wasn’t feeling them as a couple and it left me dry and unconnected.
It might also be simply that this A-story is out of date. The drama is meant to come from a situation that would have been positively scandalous in the 20s. To shame that a man would marry an already married woman — what would the neighbours say? In a 1920s Britain where propriety and image are of the utmost, this sells. But today?
Whether it was for those reasons, or others, I simply wasn’t engaged in what was supposed to be the driving conflict of the play.
Fortunately, the B-story helps make up for it. Young Dinah is looking for permission to marry her socialist painter (i.e., unsuitable) of a suitor, Brian Strange (William Verreault Milner). To do so, they need to convince stuffy old George that marrying for love is more important than anything else. (See the connection to the A-story? George has to choose between propriety and a wife he loves.)
Dinah, played by Katie Norland, is wonderfully precocious and full of life and has eyes as big as the world she’s ready to jump headlong into. Her scenes buzz with energy. If she were in more of them, or if the others shared her bon vivance, this may have succeeded at being a beautifully whimsical piece of theatre.
As is, Mr. Pim Passes By wasn’t bad. There were some nice laughs, and it will be of particular interest to anybody who wants a look at or has an interest in the mores and morals of the 20s.
Mr Pim Passes By runs at the Ottawa Little Theatre until December 15th. Find out more about the show including ticket information, photos, and video preview, in our preview article.
What did you think? Did you see the show? I’ve given you my opinion, now I’d like to hear yours. Join the discussion in the comments below.