Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Daughter-in-Law

The Mint Theater Company's production of D.H. Lawrence's drama, The Daughter-in-Law, so successfully evokes life in the East Midlands of England in 1912 that I was shocked when I glanced at the audience and saw people in contemporary clothing--and masks! This visit to another time and place is the cumulation of all the things that the fabulous creators at the Mint do so well: pick a compelling play, direct it with art and clarity, perform it beautifully--and provide scenery, costumes, lighting, and sound that perfectly set the scene, while also being a great pleasure to hear and see.

Tom Coiner, Amy Blackman
Photo: Maria Baranova

The mining families in Lawrence's play balance two serious concerns: (1)  the wear and tear of mining, with a strike looming, and (2) trying to understand, impress, escape, and love each other, while tangled in passivity, ambition, fear, and desire.

Mrs. Gascoyne's situation is ostensibly clear: she wants what's best for her grown sons. But what does that mean? And according to who? One son, Luther, a gruffly masculine man who has neither the intelligence nor the need to make much of himself, is married to Minnie, a woman he barely knows. Minnie has a small inheritance that becomes almost another character in the play, with its vibrations of power and class difference. Mrs. Gascoyne unsurprisingly has no use for Minnie. 

Over the course of the play, the characters surprise themselves and each other, and sometimes us as well. The plot also takes an unexpected turn or two. It's difficult to say how much Lawrence was trying to honestly represent the reality of the people of his time and how much he was working out his mother issues, and that adds texture to the story. The end is not exactly justified by all that precedes it, and that too is intriguing. Was Lawrence trying to make a point or was it a failure of his writing?

Sandra Shipley, Amy Blackman
Photo: Maria Baranova

The main thing to be said about The Daughter-in-Law is that it is a completely satisfying theatrical experience, often moving, often funny, and vivid in depicting class issues. Even the set changes are are compelling.

The Mint single-handedly keeps a whole subsection of theatre alive, rediscovering unappreciated plays and presenting them with astonishing consistency. In doing this, they also help keep alive the people of the past, as described in their present. It's so easy to think that people were different from us, partially because history and the arts have misled us, and partially because their clothing, surroundings, and values can seem so foreign. But the Mint reminds us again and again that being human has always been a messy and challenging adventure. (Yes, and that sex has always been complicated.)


  • Amy Blackman
  • Ciaran Bowling
  • Tom Coiner
  • Polly McKie
  • Sandra Shipley

  • Director: Martin Platt
  • Sets: Bill Clarke
  • Costumes: Holly Poe Durbin
  • Lights: Jeff Nellis
  • Sound: Lindsay Jones
  • Props: Joshua Yocom
  • Dialects: Amy Stoller
  • Illustration: Stefano Imbert
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