A RECENT EMAIL FROM SHERYL:   "Hey, ya'll. Just so you know we've been busy. Fritz's and my show, Watch on the Rhine, opened at Main Street Theatre. Thursday - Sunday Matinees. The review wasn't too bad."

(I wouldn't have heard from her, had it been.) At the bottom of the note there was a URL. Which led to the page with the review. Which I copied and pasted here:

From The Houston Chronicle - January 16, 1999

Sensitive Watch Reflects Best of Classic


copyright 1999 Houston Chronicle

Quiet dignity and understated heroism are the hallmarks of Watch on the Rhine, Lillian Hellman's 1941 drama about one man's struggle against Nazism and his awakening of a complacent American family to the rise of fascism in Europe. Happily, Main Street Theater's sensitive treatment of this rarely seen classic glows with the unaffected nobility, humanity and compassion Hellman intended. The production even withstands comparison to the fondly remembered 1943 film version, in which Paul Lukas won an Oscar re-creating his Broadway role as the anti-fascist hero. Set in the spring of 1940 at a country home outside Washington, the play begins with matriarch Fanny Farrelly and her household preparing for a visit from her daughter Sara, with her German husband, Kurt Muller, and three children. Fanny disapproved of her daughter's marriage 20 years earlier, and Sara, apart from fitful correspondence, has been estranged from the family. Sara's mother and brother David are curious about Kurt -- an engineer whose occupation and travels of recent years have been shrouded in secrecy. When the refugees arrive, it is clear they have come for a desperately needed rest: Kurt is recovering from an illness and wounds (one of his hands has been broken), Sara is careworn, and the polite but hungry children plainly have suffered deprivations. Two other houseguests are the penniless Romanian count "Teck" De Brancovis and his American wife, Marthe, a friend of the Farrelly family cast into this loveless marriage by her mother. Unprincipled and opportunistic, Teck begins investigating Kurt, eager to find information he can sell to Nazis at the German embassy. News comes that the Nazis have captured Kurt's longtime ally; Kurt must return to Germany to try to bribe his friend out of captivity. Teck discovers Kurt's identity as an underground leader and sets out to blackmail him. At first dumbfounded, Sara's mother and brother awaken to the nightmare they thought was a world away, now unfolding in their living room. As Fanny says in one of the play's famous lines, "We're shaken out of the magnolias, eh?" New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson deemed Watch on the Rhine "the finest thing Hellman has written" (she'd already done The Little Foxes and The Children's Hour). Experiencing the play again, it's hard to disagree. True, the opening is loose-knit and talky, several attempts at eccentric humor are ineffectual, and the nobility is sometimes layed with a trowel. Yet, driven by a powerful message, Hellman's skill, sincerity and dramatic instincts assert themselves. From the moment Kurt, Sara and the children arrive, the play finds its center. Through a series of potent second-act confrontations, thepoignancy of Sara consoling Kurt in a low moment, then the final heartbreaking scene -- half the audience was openly weeping -- the play grows in strength and stature. Patti Bean has directed subtly and superbly, bringing delicacy to the play's loveliest moments -- Sara's touching return to her childhood home, Kurt's reciting the lyrics of a German patriotic song. Her thoughtful blocking underscores key scenes. After perhaps a too-discreet beginning, Fritz Dickmann rises to the role of Kurt. He blends sincerity and determination, refinement of spirit and weary dignity into an affecting portrayal. Erica Garrison is his match as Sara -- heartsick, yet sadly resigned to what her husband must do. She is the very model of a Hellman heroine. Joan Fox is gustily amusing as Fanny, the imperious matriarch whose tactlessness provides much of the humor. John Kaiser makes Teck coldly calculating. Gwen McLarty brings poise and sympathy to the beleaguered Marthe. Andrew Dawson's David moves smoothly from affability to assertiveness. Sheryl Croix is robust as Fanny's impertinent maid, while Arthur Jordan plays a butler with grace and good humor. The children are excellent: Chris Joslin's sober Joshua, Katy Lu Siciliano's soulful Babette and Evan Gravenstein's little philosopher Bodo. They sustain Hellman's notion that, denied childhood by their hardships, they are essentially brave little adults. Theater-lovers will love MST's Watch on the Rhine. Bring handkerchiefs! Watch on the Rhine When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 14.

Where: Main Street Theater, 2540 Times Blvd.
Tickets: $13-$18; 713-524-6706

I'm so proud. To me, you're The Lunts.
(When are you coming for a visit?   I miss you.)

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