The Odyssey Theater Ensemble’s production of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s “First Monday in October” is mildly entertaining, but the play is so dated, it’s frankly surprising the theater chose to revive it. The political scene has changed so much in the three decades since the piece premiered that the issues it presents seem quaint. Director Allan Miller doesn’t bring a lot to the table in terms of staging or pacing, although the scenes where the two leads get to argue with one another demonstrate a liveliness the rest of the show lacks.
When the president appoints Orange County conservative Ruth Loomis (Laurie O’Brien) as the first woman on the Supreme Court, the other justices aren’t happy about it. Nobody, however, is less pleased than liberal Daniel Snow (Ralph Waite), who sees Loomis and her well-written opinions as dangerous for the court. Unexpectedly, personal problems bring the two combatants closer together, and they realize they share the same passion for serving their country.
Waite makes the most of his cantankerous judge, growling out his dialogue with comic flair. In his hands, jokes such as, “My heart wouldn’t attack me — it wouldn’t dare” work very well.
O’Brien is good in a difficult role, although her character seems to exist mainly to make Waite’s character look morally correct. She does, however, make a delicious bit of business out of angrily snapping pencils.
On opening night, however, Waite and O’Brien seemed to be struggling with their lines, which diminished the quality of the show.
Technical credits are all adequate, if nothing special.