Mr. Pim Passes By Without Winnie-the-Pooh

by Cynthia Citron on May 10, 2018

Would you rather have “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” immortalized as some of the world’s greatest characters but have people four hundred years later still quibbling over whether you are the one who actually created them?

Or would you rather have your plays sink into relative oblivion after only a century, but have everyone still remembering you as the creator of those wonderful stories about Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends?

We don’t know which option A. A. Milne would choose, but we do know that he was not happy being typecast as “a children’s writer” and his stories earned the resentment of his son, Christopher Robin, who wrote in his autobiography that he felt Milne “had filched from me my good name and left me with nothing but the empty fame of being his son.” Milne, however, had once noted that “a writer wants something more than money for his work: he wants permanence.” And thanks to the ongoing popularity of his whimsical Winnie-the-Pooh books, he has achieved that.

So what about his 37 screenplays and theater productions, his seven novels, his years of writing (and editing) for Punch magazine? You don’t hear much about that these days. Except now, when you have the opportunity to see his play “Mr. Pim Passes By”, which Milne wrote in 1919 and transformed into a novel two years later.

This play, which has recently been revived at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills, is a rather convoluted farce written in the style of many plays produced in the early-ish years of the 20th century. (Playwright Noel Coward comes to mind.)

In short order we are introduced to George Marden (John Wallace Combs), his second wife, Olivia Marden (Roslyn Cohn), his first wife (Casey Jones), his niece Dinah (Nathalie Rudolph), and her boyfriend, the artist Brian Strange (Troy Whitaker), who plays this role from May 17th to June 1st and Jacob Osborne, who takes over the role from June 2nd to the 17th, the confused Caraway Pim (Jeffrey Winner), and the Narrator, Ann, (Laura Lee Walsh) whose wry comments tie everything together. The setting is George’s old family home in Connecticut which has remained unchanged for many generations.

We are also introduced to several conflicts facing George. The first is that his wife Olivia is determined to “modernize” the house, and to that end is busy sewing an ugly new set of drapes that he absolutely detests. They are meant to replace the beige lace curtains that are also ugly, but match the rest of the old-fashioned decor and go with the dark wooden walls.

His other conflict is that he objects to his niece Dinah’s intention of marrying her boyfriend Brian. George insists that she is too young to marry and also objects that Brian is a poor artist, both monetarily and talent-wise.

Suddenly Mr. Pim arrives to inform Olivia that her first husband, whom everyone thought was dead, was actually still alive. Which also makes another conflict for George: his wife is now a bigamist. And he will have to woo her all over again.

The plot thickens—and thins. This is a quiet comedy, but under the superb direction of Jules Aaron the cast does it justice and brings the “conflicts” to a quirky light-hearted ending. It’s an ending that Winnie and Piglet would thoroughly enjoy. And Tigger, too.

“Mr. Pim Passes By” can be seen Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through June 17th at Theatre 40, 241 S. Moreno Drive, in Beverly Hills. The venue is the Reuben Cordova Theatre on the campus of Beverly Hills High School.

Reserve tickets by calling (310) 364-0535 or online at www.theatre40.org.

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