In my 3 plus years of experience covering productions at the Mint Theater Company, I have concluded that the barometer of their works range from good to great. I’m relieved to say that I’ve never walked away feeling as though my time had been wasted. If only I could give that same praise for every other production in this town, I’d be the happiest critic in Manhattan!
The latest offering from director Jonathan Bank falls under the category of “great”. Although Bank’s delicate direction is certainly a contributor, it is obvious that he has gathered an immensely talented cast who have unearthed the subtleties of a seriously underrated playwright.
The Suitcase Under My Bed is a collection of four, short one act plays that—quite literally—were found in a suitcase in the home of Irish playwright Teresa Deevy. Deevy is perhaps one of the most whimsical voices to emerge from Irish theater. Unfortunately, it took a great deal of research to have rediscovered her. Thankfully, Bank did. In 2009, he discovered that she had six plays produced at the Abbey between 1930 and 1936. Since then, his theater company has produced a few of her works and is back with this winning quartet of profoundly sweet and complex stories.
In the first piece, Strange Birth, a letter appears to housekeeper Sara Meade (Ellen Adair): a missive from the mailman (Aidan Redmond). In the Cellar of My Friend lays a crafty romantic plot between lawyer Thomas Keane (Colin Ryan) and his son Barney (A.J. Shively). Holiday House transports us to the Seafield House where exes and current lovers uncomfortably mingle with one another in delightfully snarky and droll banter. It is probably the most light-hearted piece in the evening. To me, it evoked the same sentiment found in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. All three of these plays are enjoying their World premiere. The evening concludes with The King of Spain’s Daughter, a piece that was originally published and produced in 1935. Deevy’s feminist voice shines through as she explores the choices a young girl faces between her abusive father, an unenticing lover, or loatheful labor.
Too often, Irish drama is stereotyped with characters who are impoverished, depressed, and/or alcoholic. Deevy offers a much different perspective by writing well-rounded, layered characters who live in the clear-headed moment. Her storytelling approach is similar to that of O. Henry. There is always a current of curiosity running through her narratives.
Bank’s entire cast shines but there are particularly fine performances. Stage veteran Cynthia Mace offers impressive range from dowdy to dignified. Aidan Redmond-a strapping, young Frank Langella type–is also a stand-out who is equally as comfortable in laborer’s clothes as he is in a natty upper class suit.
The Suitcase under the Bed has been extended through September 30th at The Beckett Theatre on Theater Row (West 42nd between 9th and 10th). For tickets and information, visit: Mint Theater.