Merrimack Rep’s ‘Mrs. Mannerly’ falls short

Jan Neuberger plays a Steubenville, Ohio, etiquette teacher and Matthew Schneck is her student in “Mrs. Mannerly.”
Jan Neuberger plays a Steubenville, Ohio, etiquette teacher and Matthew Schneck is her student in “Mrs. Mannerly.”Meghan Moore

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LOWELL — Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Mrs. Mannerly’’ aims for laughs and something more. But it’s not clear whether even the playwright knows what that something more is.

Hatcher likes to challenge himself by ranging across genres. I admired his “Three Viewings,’’ a trio of linked monologues set in a funeral home, which was performed at New Repertory Theatre a couple of years ago. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,’’ Hatcher’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, currently at Stoneham Theatre, is an artful and gripping dramatization of Stevenson’s story.

“Mrs. Mannerly,’’ now at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, is a 90-minute two-hander that revolves around the friendship that develops between a boy named Jeffrey and his etiquette teacher, Helen Anderson Kirk, nicknamed Mrs. Mannerly, in Steubenville, Ohio, in the fall of 1967.

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MRS. MANNERLY

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