Friday, August 31, 2018

Days to Come

Is any theatre company in New York more consistently satisfying than The Mint? IMHO, the answer is a great big "No!"

Larry Bull, Janie Brookshire, Ted Deasy, and Mary Bacon
Photo: Todd Cerveris
(The set is much better-looking in person than this picture shows)

Here's what you (nearly always) get when you go to The Mint:
  • An unsung play from decades ago that is at worst interesting and at best flat-out wonderful.
  • A playwright who is smart, insightful, compassionate, and, usually, forgotten. 
  • Direction that is clear, straightforward, smooth, and completely in service to the play.
  • A cast that ranges from good to extraordinary.
  • A set you'd like to move into.
  • Costumes that are often beautiful and usually just right for the character.
  • Excellent lighting, sound, props, and fights.
  • A satisfying evening.
The current show, Days to Come, is by Lillian Hellman, who is not forgotten, but the play mostly is. I usually think of Hellman's work as tightly plotted and smoothly structured; Days to Come is neither. (It was her second play to be produced, and it closed after seven performances.)

Hellman herself diagnosed the problem with the play: "I wanted to say too much." Indeed, while the plot focuses on how a strike at a brush-making firm affects the small town where it occurs, the show also has a lot to say about relationships, money, family secrets, how to live a worthwhile life, the underlying reality in friendships between people of different classes, violence, sexual mores, and what does or doesn't make a woman's life full.

The result is somehow both too flabby and too thin, but still compelling. Hellman's point of view is not simple, and it is that complexity that makes the play worthwhile. 

The current production has all the strengths listed in the bullet-point list above, but I'd like to give shout-outs to Jane Shaw's sound design, which makes real the world outside the play, and to fight director Rod Kinter and stage managers Jeff Meyers and Kristi Hess, who provide some really nice effects. 

Wendy Caster
(press ticket, fifth row)
Show-Score Score: 85

Cast: Mary Bacon, Janie Brookshire, Larry Bull, Chris Henry Coffey, Dan Daily, Ted Deasy, Roderick Hill, Betsy Hogg, Kim Martin-Cotten, Geoffrey Allen Murphy, and Evan Zes. Sets, Harry Feiner; costumes, Andrea Varga; lights, Christian DeAngelis; sound, Jane Shaw; props, Joshua Yocom; fight director, Rod Kinter; dialects and dramaturgy, Amy Stoller; casting, Stephanie Klapper, CSA; production stage manager, Jeff Meyers; stage manager, Kristi Hess; illustration, Stefano Imbert; graphics, Hey Jude Design, Inc.; press, David Gersten & Associates.

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