The Mint Theater Company has unearthed the never-produced play by the British writer Miles Malleson (1888-1969), who also had a career as an actor. Set in 1933, the play takes a wry look at attempts to have an open marriage, with what was probably unusual candor for its time.
The staging by director Jonathan Bank and the acting by the cast of five convey an air of sophistication to the plot and discourse. One is invited to feel as if we were truly back in that era listening to the concerns and problems that are at work when a couple attempts to be open to affairs meant to be harmless, even helpful in sustaining a marital relationship. Good luck. The more serious the talk, the funnier the play.
Max von Essen and Elisabeth Gray portray the married couple Stephen and Anne Meredith. Stephen is a writer with an intensely happy-go-lucky air. Gray, very beautiful, conveys Anne’s attempt to be ultra sophisticated. We soon learn that Anne encourages Stephen to have an undisguised affair with seductive Diana Streatfield, played by the warmly attractive Mikaela Izquierdo.
Is it any surprise that Anne soon grows jealous and resentful? The intelligent conversation written by Malleson is perfectly captured as the cast members do justice to it under Bank’s direction that highlights the outward sincerity but underlying angst. Banks and his cast play it straight, not reaching for laughs, but letting the seriousness itself communicate amusement at the complications created.
There are two other characters—the level-headed family friend Dr. Alan Kirby, nicely portrayed by Todd Cerveris, with whom Anne once had a fling, and Stephen’s angry father, The Rev. Canon Gordon Meredith, played by Stephen Schnetzer, who won’t condone his behavior.
When Anne’s husband, goes off for a rendezvous in London, Anne decides to go to London and have a dalliance of her own. It is a liberating experience, and Stephen, still expressing adoration for his beautiful wife whom he professes to love dearly, is going to have an entirely new situation on his hands.
Malleson, who deserves to have his work further explored, writes with sophistication, and that is the level of the excellent staging in this latest Mint Theatre Company offering. At the Beckett Theatre, Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street. Phone: 212-239-6200. Reviewed January 27, 2017.