‘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 Suitcase Under the Bed’ – A Versatile Program of Four Short Plays

Now playing through September 30, 2017 is the Mint Theater’s production of The Suitcase Under the Bed.   The program consists of four short plays written by Teresa Deevy. The careful consideration given by Mint Theater to this program provides a remarkable evening of theater for those who come to see it. Perhaps the best way to summarize the success of this production is in the words of the playwright herself who said “suspense, surprise, inevitable this,” is what play should contain. That is true of all four of these plays.

This production is highly recommended for those who enjoy well written, well-acted plays with unique storytelling.  There are touching emotional moments scattered throughout which keep audiences watching and wondering.

Background

The Teresa Deevy Project began in 2009. Jonathan Banks, Mint Theater Company’s Artistic Director, went on a search to find out about Ireland’s women playwrights. He came across Deevy’s name on a list as someone who had six plays produced at the Abbey, Ireland’s National Theatre between 1930 – 1936.  He was only able to find information about one of them. So he began a search of her work.

Banks’ search led him to the Deevy family home in Waterford, Ireland. Banks says, “There, in two suitcases stuffed under a bed was a treasure trove of typescripts.” Thus the title of program, The Suitcase Under the Bed, was born. This program is a continuation of the Teresa Deevy Project which kicked off in 2010, when the Mint Theater re-introduced the writer to the world with their acclaimed production of the play Wife to James Whelan.  Produced in 2011 was Temporal Powers  and Katie Roche in 2013.

In 2012, Mint published all three of these plays in Teresa Deevy Reclaimed Volume One which has been distributed free of charge to Irish Studies Departments at Colleges and Universities across the U.S. Volume Two of Teresa Deevy Reclaimed is now available, containing nine short plays, collected in one book for the first time ever. Together, these two books will have a significant impact on Deevy scholarship for years to come.

Photo K Nowosad

Both of these books are on sale at performances of The Suitcase Under the Bed and online at the Mint Theater Company website. These would make great gifts to someone who enjoys good plays. Additionally, English teachers would do well to check out this series for potential inclusion in future curriculum.

The Four Plays

There are four short plays that make up The Suitcase Under the Bed. They are “Strange Birth,” “In the Cellar of My Friend,” “Holiday House,” and “King of Spain’s Daughter.”

Cynthia Mace, left, and Ellen Adair in “Strange Birth.” Credit Richard Termine

“Strange Birth” – This is a very sweet tale about love. It all takes place in the entrance hallway of a home where the mail is delivered. A letter arrives and it provides a sweet respite out of the chores for the housekeeper. This play is one of the shortest on the program but it shows three different situations dealing with love and two very happy endings.

“In the Cellar of My Friend”  – A woman thinks the man she loves is preparing to propose marriage to her. She is delightfully happy as the morning begins thinking about what he said the night before. However, a twist that is very surprising occurs and the outcome is a good example of how someone can land on their feet.

Sarah Nicole Deaver and A.J. Shively in “The King of Spain’s Daughter” Credit Richard Termine

“Holiday House” – This short play is funny and introspective and loaded with bits of sarcasm written in. It is a joy to listen to the dialog as this story unfolds. Additionally, the acting antics of the characters adds richness to what takes place.

“King of Spain’s Daughter” – This selection was a successful venture in Dublin, Ireland. It shows the struggle a nontraditional Irish woman experienced during that time period. It is a little rough in parts that deal with the young woman and her father. However, the budding relationship between her and her suitor show potential.

Some beautiful Irish folk music plays as you enter the theater and at intermission to help set the mood. The sets are designed to allow easy changes as the program progresses.

Jonathan Banks directs this production. The cast includes Ellen Adair, Gina Costigan, Sarah Nicole Deaver, Cynthia Mace, Aidan Redmond, Colin Ryan, and A.J. Shively.  The cast does a remarkable job. They play many different characters in different settings throughout the course of the program. Bravo and brava for a job well done!

About the Show

Glad to say this show runs at the Beckett Theatre in Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd Street in New York City, for the rest of this month. The run extends to Sept. 30, 2017 which still gives time to come to see it.

For more information about the show or tickets, go to the Mint Theater Company website online or purchase at the Theatre Row Box Office.

Run time is approximately 2 hours with one 15 minute intermission.

 

Review: Mint Theater’s ‘The ‘Lucky One’ Looks at Sibling Rivalry and Favoritism

The name A.A. Milne usually brings thoughts about the teddy bear, Winnie-the-Pooh. Milne wrote a series of stories about the lovable bear as well as poems that have become part of his legacy. However, look deeper into his biography see his success early on as a playwright.  A play he wrote called The Lucky One was originally produced in 1922. It became Milne’s sixth Broadway production in less than two years. The first New York revival of this play is on the Mint Theater Company stage now through June 25, 2017. It focuses on sibling rivalry as it shows parents who favor one child over the other. The reason they do it is not really clear and it does not matter because the damage is done.

Deanna Lorette (l) Wynn Harmon (r) as the parents of the brothers Photograph:© 2017 Richard Termine
PHOTO CREDIT – Richard Termine

The Lucky One is the story of two brothers, Gerald and Bob. Brought up by the same parents, in the same home, each one achieves different levels of success and happiness in life.  Each of them is thought of differently by their family. Clearly much of the family’s attitude influenced the lives they now lead.

Initially, the lucky one appears to be Gerald. He is highly revered by all who know him, especially his parents. His ability to talk pleasingly with people has moved him nicely through life. He now has an important job and a fiancé, Pamela, who is well liked by the family. Even though she is engaged to Gerald, Pamela was originally friends with Bob and the two appear to be quite close. Despite this friendship, the engagement with Gerald is on and his future looks very rosy.

Bob is the lesser regarded of the two brothers. The parents and others say, “poor Bob” quite often. Poor Bob gets into trouble on his job and goes to brother Gerald for help. Gerald dismisses it saying it will eventually work out. Bob ends up serving jail time. However, when Bob reappears at the family home after a supposed early release with Pamela, they have a surprise for Gerald. After a strong verbal exchange between the brothers, one now wonders really, who is the “lucky one?”

Well-designed sets and costumes add to the high value of this production. Directed by Jesse Marchese, this play uses precise and well developed dialog that allows the action to unfold easily.  However, the real power of this show is the acting by an amazing company.

Robert David Grant plays Gerald. He portrays the character as a successful, supposedly well-adjusted man. He keeps a plastered smile on his face at all times never allowing anyone to see what is really inside of him. Ari Brand plays the other brother, Bob. As much as Gerald grins, Bob frowns. He painfully aware of his lower status in the family until a surprising friendship brings him the confidence to break out. Both Grant and Brand turn in superb acting with their roles especially in a final scene between them when each finally tells the other what they have always held back saying.

Paton Ashbrook gives a unique slant to the character Pamela as she finds herself involved in different ways with each of the two brothers. Wynn Harmon and Deanna Lorette play the parents, Sir and Lady Farringdon. Their work as a couple truly demonstrates the distance they have with Bob and their over inflated view of Gerald. Other members of the cast include Andrew Fallaize, Michael Frederic, Cynthia Harris, Peggy J. Scott and Mia Hutchinson-Shaw.

About the Show:

Running Time: One Hour 50 minutes with one intermission
Location: Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row, 412 West 42nd Street, New York City
Performances: Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. with matinees Saturday & Sunday at 2 p.m. Special Wednesday Matinees on May 17th and May 31st at 2 pm. Shows run though June 25, 2107.
Contact for Info and Tickets: Purchase tickets online at Telecharge.com, by phone at 212-239-6200 or in person at the Theatre Row Box Office. For more information, visit the Mint Theatre website.
Suggested Audience: Appropriate for all ages.