“Mr. Pim Passes By” at Taproot Theatre

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April Poland and Ryan Childers in Mr. Pim Passes By at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug

One of the things Taproot does really well is drawing room comedy. This long ignored play by A.A. Milne is one of their best. We know Milne as the Winnie-the-Pooh man. Few of us realize that he was also a popular playwright in the early twentieth century. This production, directed skillfully by Karen Lund, proves why he was so successful in the theatre.

Oh the horror for the very proper George Marden when the strange little Mr. Pim shows up at his door one day and unwittingly sends the whole household into pandemonium with an offhand comment. It leads George (dumbfounded, pompous yet naive as Ryan Childers captures him) to believe he is not properly married to his dear Olivia (smartly and precisely played by April Poland) whose first husband was thought to have been dead long before she married her beloved George but may have died only recently according to Pim.

Ye Gads! They’ve been living in sin for all these years, and what will their friends think? How can they amend the situation? George, a prisoner to the stuffy English concepts of propriety, is caught between his love for Olivia and his oh-so-narrow sense of right and wrong. The gentle A.A. Milne has embedded some not so subtle judgments about British snobbery within this delectable little drama, while Director Lund has paced it so precisely that not a nuance is lost.

Meanwhile George’s young ward, the sweet but determined Dinah (lovely Allie Pratt) is much in love with Brian, wants to marry him, and is disconsolate because her guardian forbids it. The only one in the household who maintains her sensibility and makes the most of the situation is Olivia. In the battle of the sexes, waged here with delicacy and finesse, she’s the hands-down winner.

The production is charming. The acting captures each personality. Mark Lund’s set well represents the English country drawing room, with its French doors opening onto the garden and family portraits suitably placed. Music from the twenties establishes the time frame, as do Sarah Burch Gordon’s lovely costumes.

Oh Mr. Pim! You look so innocuous, and you have no idea what havoc you have wrought. Who knew Milne wrote such witty and perceptive commentary for the theatre?

Through March 1 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St. Seattle, (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org/buy-tickets/).

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