Thursday, January 18, 2018

Hindle Wakes

Sex. It's a tricky thing, is sex.

Throughout history, including now, cultures have sought to tame sex's complexity via rigid rules, assumptions, and limitations (particularly for women), with little success. In fact, the rules invariably make sex more complex by adding layers of morality, expectations, and even property ownership. Perhaps most importantly, rules deny sex's mundane side: sometimes people just want to get laid.

Jeremy Beck, Rebecca Noelle Brinkley
Photo: Todd Cerveris

In the excellent Hindle Wakes, it's the early 20th century, and Fanny Hawthorn (a weaver at the Jeffcote mill) has just had a weekend tryst with Alan Jeffcote (son of the mill's owner and engaged to be married to someone else). Due to an unexpected circumstance, their parents find out, and all hell breaks loose.

Hindle Wakes was considered scandalous in its time, and no wonder. Playwright Stanley Houghton presents independent women who have opinions and demand more power than is given to them. And these women have ideas and feelings about sex--some unexpected when watching the show today, and all unexpected when the show premiered in 1912, I would think.

The play is a fascinating balance between, on one hand, three-dimensional characters with full-blown conflicts and, on the other, ideas about society, relationships, and, yes, sex. Houghton's characters don't discuss theories; they have huge emotional and practical stakes in what they believe and want. Houghton's play of ideas is a natural outgrowth of his play about humans and their needs and foibles. The result is fascinating, involving, surprising, and funny.

The show is well-performed by Jeremy Beck, Rebecca Noelle Brinkley, Emma Geer, Jonathan Hogan, Sara Carolynn Kennedy, Ken Marks, Brian Reddy, Sandra Shipley, and Jill Tanner. The direction by Gus Kaikkonen is smooth and unobtrusive, with a slight tendency to shtick. The design aspects are first-rate, led by a gorgeous set by Charles Morgan. Costumes are by Sam Fleming, lights by Christian DeAngelis, sound and original music by Jane Shaw, and props by Joshua Yocom. I particularly appreciated the hair and wigs by Gerard Kelly, which are attractive and appropriate without drawing attention to themselves.

Stanley Houghton unfortunately died at 32. I think he would have/could have been a well-known and important voice. Thanks to The Mint for giving him his due in this wonderful production.

Wendy Caster
(press ticket, 5th row on the aisle)


Anonymous said...

Surely you mean an unexpected circumstance!

Wendy Caster said...

Indeed I did! Thank you. I'll fix that right now.