Subtle British comedies of sex, morality and class like Mary Broome rarely wash up on these shores without the name George Bernard Shaw attached to them. But thankfully the beachcombers of the Mint Theatre Company, specialists in providing sturdy mountings of the once popular/now obscure, came across this 1911 Allan Monkhouse curiosity that hasn’t been seen in New York since 1919.
The title character (played with noble reserve by Janie Brookshire) is the finest maid ever employed by the exceedingly proper Timbrell family, who quietly confesses in the first scene that she is pregnant by the master’s devilishly irresponsible bachelor son, Leonard (Roderick Hill). In what may seem a surprising move, the family patriarch, Edward (a gruffly domineering Graeme Malcolm), sympathizes more with the help and insists that his son marry her and accept an annual allowance or be cut off from the family wealth. Leonard, who fancies himself as a writer (though an unproductive one), accepts the offer, as does Mary, who does have a gent in her life but would not think of asking him to take her now.
Despite the play’s title, it is Leonard who is the central character, and while a British audience of one hundred years ago might have found him more entertaining and sympathetic than a modern audience of yanks would, Hill, under director Jonathan Bank, skillfully gives Leonard some degree of naïve sincerity to go with his glib humor. If not exactly likeable, he’s not completely abhorrent.
The four talkative acts (delivered in less than two hours) have only a slight plot developing from the marriage and turns mostly into an evening of class-conscious quipping. A slight reminder of how much better Shaw was at this sort of thing arrives with the entrance of Mary’s very Alfred P. Doolittle-ish father. Douglas Rees gives a heartily amusing performance as the self-described radical with socialist leanings; a dingily attired horse-drawn cab driver being driven from his income by the new motorized taxis.
But if the play proves less than satisfactory, it still receives the traditional Mint treatment in a handsomely acted production. Set designer Roger Hanna provides the impression of stately home with a slight touch of modern commentary when an imposing collection of family portraits is used for a very funny sight gag.
Photo of Janie Brookshire and Roderick Hill by Carol Rosegg.
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The grosses are out for the week ending 9/16/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: PORGY AND BESS (17.6%), War Horse (10.6%), MAMMA MIA! (9.4%), WICKED (7.6%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (6.8%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (6.3%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (6.1%), BRING IT ON THE MUSICAL (4.6%), EVITA (4.4%), NEWSIES (4.2%), JERSEY BOYS (3.9%), CHICAGO (2.3%), ONCE (2.2%), MARY POPPINS (1.6%), AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE (1.3%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (1.2%), ROCK OF AGES(0.9%),
Down for the week was: CHAPLIN (-6.9%), THE LION KING (-0.9%),