The Mint Theater seems to be an oasis for elders seeking to find their Mecca in the form of good old fashioned plays (at reasonable rates) that the Mint happily and repeatedly supplies. Its latest foray into the past which is surprisingly up to date is MARY BROOME – written by Allan Monkhouse in 1911. This impressive, vibrant and fresh production is its first revival in New York that should interest younger audiences as well. Some things are well worth waiting for.
A bit of Shaw. A bit of Wilde. A bit of Upstairs/Downstairs make MARY BROOME a smart, witty and biting comedy with great dialogue and timeless arguments. A microscopic look into the morals and beliefs of a well to do Edwardian family – the Timbrells – whose lives are turned topsy-turvy when their youngest son Leonard (an excellent Roderick Hill) admits to having an affair with the naïve Mary Broome (Janie Brookshire), the appropriately named maid of the household (who now has a bun in the oven) on the eve of his brother Edgar’s (Rod Brogan) wedding to Sheila Ray (Julie Jesneck).
The various reactions to this startling and scandalous piece of news keep us wondering how it will all play out.
Which it does, beautifully and unexpectedly in two concise acts lasting one hour and fifty minutes with intermission under the superb direction of Jonathan Bank on a lovely set designed by Roger Hanna featuring original and unusual portraits that change with the very entertaining scene changes.
Period costumes by Martha Hally are fashionably appropriate. Sound design by Jane Shaw makes use of a “Bird in a Gilded Cage” CD which is available for sale in the lobby along with other books, mugs and the fabric used for the Timbrell’s sitting room. The Mint is a great merchandiser as well as a brilliant finder of lost plays.
Leonard is a writer, a callous cad who can be awfully cruel in his quest to be completely open and honest. No one understands him. He never has any money – borrowing from one and all – he is an equal opportunity moocher. Without an actor who can take these negative attributes and turn them around so that you like him is quite an accomplishment. And Mr. Hill does just that. He is terrific in the part and at times you almost feel sorry for him.
As Mary, Ms. Brookshire has just the right touch of naiveté and lower class accent to be believable as she slowly becomes aware of what she must do to survive. She is quite moving as she transforms herself into a more knowledgeable woman who takes control of her life.
Graeme Malcolm as the ultra strict patriarch Edward has just the right bluster about him and is just as brutish as his son whom he criticizes. Mrs. Timbrell (a fine Kristin Griffith) takes a shine to Mary as she has been through all this before. Pity the poor ladies of that period who were treated so badly and their contemporary counterparts.
Patricia Kilgarriff takes command of the stage with her brief role as Mrs. Greaves, the young couple’s landlady looking to be paid and Jill Tanner and Peter Cormican are top notch in the dual roles of Mr. & Mrs. Pendleton and John and Mrs. Broome.
Katie Fabel and Erica Swindell round out the excellent ensemble. But the show belongs to both Roderick Hill and Janie Brookshire as the unlikely lovers. Through Oct 14th. Highly recommended.
www.minttheater.org Photos: Carol Rosegg
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