Thursday, June 21, 2018


The wonderful people at The Mint have done it yet again. They have gifted us with a beautiful production of a lost gem of a play, complete with smart and clear direction, wonderful performances, and impeccable design elements. The Mint's batting average is extraordinary.

Jeremy Beck and Jessie Shelton 
Photo: Todd Cerveris

Specifically, the play is Conflict, written in the 1920s by Miles Malleson, author of Unfaithfully Yours (presented by The Mint in 2017). In both plays, Malleson uses characters as mouthpieces for particular points of view; however, the ratio of ideas to emotions is more effective in Conflict. Here's a description of the play from the press release:
Conflict is a love story set against the backdrop of a hotly contested election. It's the Roaring '20s in London. Lady Dare Bellingdon has everything she could want, yet she craves something more. Dare's man, Sir Major Ronald Clive, is standing for Parliament with the backing of Dare's father. Clive is a Conservative, of course, but he's liberal enough to be sleeping with Dare, who's daring enough to take Clive as a lover, but too restless to marry him. Clive's opponent, Tom Smith is passionate about social justice and understands the joy of having something to believe in. Dare is "the woman between" two candidates who both want to make a better world — until politics become personal, and mudslinging threatens to soil them all.

That is a decent synopsis, but the plot is not the point. Instead, the plot acts as a delivery system for fascinating character portraits, intriguing debates about capitalism versus socialism, and a sympathetic, multidimensional depiction of a woman (in the 1920s!) who chooses to live her life on her own terms. Conflict is by turns charming, infuriating, touching, thought-provoking, and funny.

Graeme Malcolm 
Photo: Todd Cerveris

As mentioned above, everything about this production is top-notch (credits listed below), but even in this classy setting, the performance of Jeremy Beck stands out. Beck is sensational as Tom Smith, a man whose view of the world changes radically when he falls from the upper classes to near starvation. Beck portrays Smith as a careful man who suppresses his emotions, yet the audience always knows what emotions he is suppressing. Smith's pride, humiliations, ambitions, and love are all the more vivid for being so carefully tamped down. It is a performance of quiet brilliance.

Wendy Caster
(press ticket; 6th row)

Directed by Jenn Thompson and featuring Jeremy Beck, Henry Clarke, Graeme Malcolm, James Prendergast, Jessie Shelton, Jasmin Walker, Amelia White. Scenic design by John McDermott, costume design by Martha Hally, lighting design by Mary Louise Geiger, sound design by Toby Algya, prop design by Chris Fields, and hair and wigs by Robert-Charles Vallance.

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