Last night theatrical legends Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt stopped by their old home, Ten Chimneys, in Genessee Depot, Wisconsin. They didn’t take the train from New York this time but channeled themselves through Heidi Wermuth and Eric Bultman. The two actors, members of this season’s inaugural class of the Milwaukee Rep’s Internship Program, starred in Ten Chimney’s inaugural play reading of the season, “O Mistress Mine.” A night of firsts, including new chair cushions for the audience.
It’s a given that such an audience is passionate about theater, historic preservation and the Lunts (above) — but in what order is anybody’s guess. That’s only one of the obstacles the actors faced when they walked out. Bare stage, bare chairs, no costumes or props other than big black binders with the text of the play.
Just bright lights pouring down on the seven people on stage and larger than life portraits of the Lunts staring at them from all sides. Enough to strike terror into any actor’s heart let alone the first night out — for a one-time-only reading.
With tone of voice, speaking looks and mostly restrained gestures, the group quickly transported us to a London drawing room in 1945. And Wermuth and Bultman had the looks, the chemistry, the smooth manner of the famous acting duo. I’m keeping my program to remember all these names; someday they just may join the Lunts on the wall.
Top image: Fontanne and Lunt.com. Alfred Lunt, Noel Coward and Lynn Fontanne in Coward's play, "Design for Living." Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS