‘Hindle Wakes’ Challenges the Double Standard

Jill Tanner, Ken Marks and Sandra Shipley in HINDLE WAKES by Stanley Houghton, Directed by Gus Kaikkonen. Photo by Todd Cerveris.

A new play from the Mint Theater Company officially opened last week at the Clurman Theatre. Hindle Wakes by Stanley Houghton carries an illustrious background of success with it. Premiering in London in 1912, many critics said it was the best play of the year. Although the play is 95 years old, this marks its first revival.

The play shows an unsentimental depiction of two young people seeking pleasure without commitment. At the time, this sparked moral outrage and was quite controversial. This controversy turned out to be good for business and Hindle Wakes became a hit. The themes in the play still have value today especially with the women’s movement regaining steam. Astute playgoers will recognize a double standard imposed on women in the story. Men can do things that women cannot get away with. However, they will also see heroines who might be considered ahead of their time. These women characters are quite exceptional as they stand on their own and go against the accepted values of their day.

The story centers around life and the people who live in Hindle, a small mill town in Wales.  When the mill closes for a bank holiday, people go away for a few days to resort towns. Fanny Hawthorn and Alan Jeffcote run into each other at a seashore town where Fanny is staying with a girlfriend. Alan takes Fanny to a hotel in another part of Wales for a few days of fun. Both of them are fine with the arrangement despite the fact that they are not married. Also, Alan is engaged to the girl of his dreams, Beatrice Farrar, not Fanny. Fanny and Alan enjoy their time together. When their little vacation ends, they both return to their homes assuming their liaison will remain their secret.

Sandra Shipley and Rebecca Noelle Brinkley in HINDLE WAKES by Stanley Houghton, Photo by Todd Cerveris.

Fanny is immediately greeted by her parents, the Hawthorns, who demand to know where she has really been. Due to some rather sad circumstances, they know that she was not with her girlfriend. When pressed, Fanny tells them about her time with Alan. They are enraged at her actions and determined to do the right thing. This right thing is to get Alan to marry their daughter. Although the hour is late, Fanny’s father, Christopher, sets out to the Jeffcote home to settle the matter. Fanny’s mother is very stern about the situation; her father is more comforting.

As Christopher arrives, some background about his relationship with Alan’s father, Nathaniel, comes out. It seems that they are longtime friends and at one time, were nearly business partners. Now, Nathaniel is a successful mill owner and Christopher is a part of the mill as a worker. Class distinction becomes apparent. However it does not overshadow the sense that both men have of doing the “right thing.” Mrs. Jeffcote is left out of the discussion. The men decide that Alan must marry Fanny.

As the show goes to intermission, it is apparent that a very intense social structure guides the lives of people who live in Hindle. The men make the decisions that adhere to that structure and all are expected to go along with it. It is interesting to note that the married women in the show are only referred to as Mrs. Hawthorn and Mrs. Jeffcote. No first names are used.

The action after intermission shows an entirely different side to this male dominated thinking. Many surprises take place once three women finally become involved. Fanny, Beatrice, and Mrs. Jeffcote all defy the ideas laid out to them. Young Alan still wants to marry Beatrice. She turns him away after she learns of his deception. Fanny announces she does not want to marry him either.  Mrs. Jeffcote supports the young women’s ideas. Only Mrs. Hawthorn is stunned with her daughter’s decision. The strength of the women to stick to their decisions is a beautiful part of seeing this show. More occurs before the ending which is rather satisfying.

Gus Kaikkonen directs Hindle Wakes with great attention to detail and character development. The three women who go against the norm turn in strong performances. This includes Rebecca Noelle Brinkley as Fanny,  Jill Tanner as Mrs. Jeffcote, and Emma Greer as Beatrice. Sandra Shipley plays Mrs. Hawthorn as a bit of nag who wants to see her daughter receive what society regards as the right thing. Kudos to Sara Carolynn Kennedy as Ada, the Jeffcote’s maid who adds some humor to the role.

Jeremy Beck plays Alan as a young man looking for his fun at no expense. His portrayal allows the strength of the women to shine through. Brian Reddy gives a slightly humorous tone to Sir Timothy Farrer as his own indiscretions to the double standard are revealed . Ken Marks plays Christopher Hawthorn with the emotion needed to show a man who tries to bridge the gaps between his family and the social ideas. One of the most fascinating and fine performances is that of Jonathan Hogan as Nathaniel Jeffcote. Mr. Hogan shows a character who is proud of his success but also still sentimental to those people who are an important part of his life.

Information About the Show

Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission
Location: Clurman Theatre, Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd Street, New York City
Performances: Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30pm with matinees Saturday & Sunday at 2pm. Wednesday Matinee on February 14th at 2pm.
Contact for Info and Tickets: Visit the Mint productions website, minttheater.org

‘The Calling’ is a Remarkable New Play

Ames Adamson and Jared Michael Delaney in a scene from “The Calling,” a world premiere by Joel Stone playing at NJ Rep Photo credit: SuzAnne Barabas

The New Jersey Repertory Company is starting the new year off right with the world premiere of a remarkable new play. The Calling by Joel Stone was commissioned by NJPAC’s Stage Exchange in Association with the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and the NJRep. It was first introduced at an impressive initial reading at the NJPAC in April, 2017. Even then, there was a sense that the play had unique qualities about it that would deliver on a live stage. Now with it being performed on an well-designed set with two very strong actors, the promise from that reading has been realized. This play delivers a most unexpected series of events keeping its audience guessing until the very last minute of the show. Additionally, the marvelous development of the characters gives theater goers something to ponder as they leave the show.

Evan Bergman provides superb direction to this thriller.  The story of The Calling is set in a Catholic church following the funeral of Mrs. Callahan. Father Dan is straightening up after the service when he finds Carl sleeping on one of the pews. They begin to talk and as they do, Carl reveals that he is an ICU nurse who works the night shift at a nearby hospital. Mrs. Callahan was one of his patients and Father Dan is impressed that Carl took time out of his busy life to come to the service. Just why he came to the service becomes the springboard of all the eventual revelations and actions.

Playwright Stone carefully constructs the conversations so that each level of revelation comes out slowly and carefully. This approach allows the layers of the plot to unfold in such a way that the audience on opening day gasped at certain points.  That’s how startled they were at several points.

It would not be right to reveal critical turning points in this story. So suffice it to say, just when you think you have it figured out, something else is revealed leading to more information about the characters which in turn feeds the plot. The background and actions of the characters are what makes this play such a thriller to sit through.  Both Father Dan and Carl have many sides to them including some good and some very sinister.

“The Calling” demands a lot from the two actors. Both Ames Adamson as Father Dan and Jared Michael Delaney as Carl definitely deliver what is needed to bring these characters to life.  As a priest, Mr. Adamson both looks and acts the part. He allows the very human side of the priest to come through which intensifies the action taking place. At first, Mr. Delaney shows the uncertainty bothering Carl with a light flair. This allows a more intense approach as the deeper, more complex part of the character  emerges.  Not an easy thing to do, but it is well done.

As you watch, you realize these are not people who Mr. Stone decided to create out of nothing. No, they could easily be people right in one’s own community. The play demonstrates how people hide behind facades that relate to the work they do and how the community regards them. And that makes you feel a bit uncomfortable when the truth of what has happened comes out.

This play definitely lives up to the billing that NJ Rep is using: heart-pounding, mind-bending psychological thriller. Your own feelings about what each character does will determine how heart-pounding it is. But it is definitely mind-bending as the psychology of the characters becomes more exposed.

Additional Information

Running Time: approx. 90 minutes; no intermission

Location: New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Long Branch, NJ

Performances: Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm; and Sundays at 2pm, through February 4, 2018

Contact for Info and Tickets: Reservations by phone: 732-229-3166 or online at njrep.org.

‘Here and Queer’ – A Cabaret Night of Song

Cabaret singers for ‘Here and Queer’ at the Green Room, Dec. 16, 2017. Photo credit Lianne Schoenwiesner

A unique and lovely evening of song took place on Dec. 16, 2017 at New York City’s Green Room. A cabaret show called Here and Queer took place on one of those very cold nights we experienced that month. But the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. The room was decorated for the holidays and it added to the festive feel provided by a marvelous group of all women singers. Their fine presentations of the songs was well received by the audience who appeared to want to stay even longer.

The premise of Here and Queer was taking classic and contemporary Broadway favorite tunes typically sung by heterosexual couples and having them performed all by women. The result is that songs which celebrate relationships and what they might bring with them become more universal in that everyone can relate, regardless of sexual identity.

Songs like “Somewhere” from West Side Story, “If I Loved You,” a duet from Carousel, and “You Matter to Me” from Waitress are examples of some of the lovely selections performed that evening. A finale of “I Am What I Am” from La Cage aux Folles concluded the evening on a perfect note.

There is no doubt that the idea of the evening was a very clever one. But what really made it standout were the strong, melodic voices from the cast of the show.  There was a lot of heart and soul added to each performance which both delivered a message and entertained at the same time.

The event was directed by Jenn Maley with music direction by Jake Turski.

A  comic served as emcee for the event who did a fine job keeping the event moving with quips that fit the event with a nice bit of humor.

The cast of singers included Lina Marie, Morgan Dean, Shazdeh Gabriel, Kat Griffin, Ilene Pabon, Emily Wronski, and Bridget Elise Yingling. Shown here are some photos of this event taken by Lianne Schoenwiesner of Spotlights Photography.