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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.

Katie Roche
Mint Theater   February 2021

New York's Mint Theater specialises in rediscovering 'lost' or under-appreciated plays from the early Twentieth Century. This 1936 drama by Teresa Deevy reaches toward both expressionism and symbolism in capturing a woman's experience in twentieth-century Ireland or, indeed, Ireland's experience in the Twentieth Century.

But Mint's solidly realistic production loses any such potential overtones, leaving us with a portrait of an ordinary woman in ordinary circumstances, with play and actors straining to find any meaning or interest beyond the anecdotal.

Katie is a servant girl who marries a much older man because he is a good man, he's a little more posh than she and he's about the best she can hope for. He is a good man but also a very cold and unromantic one, and Katie can't resist the temptations of flirting with a local lad.

Her husband's reaction is characteristically a purely practical one to take her away from the only village she's ever known and start their life over someplace else and the play ends with Katie trying to make the best of this unpromising new adventure.

The play might work if its allegorical or metaphorical implications were allowed to give it extra depth and meanings. But Jonathan Bank's production and Wrenn Schmidt's performance as Katie leave her something of a blank.

Schmidt makes her full of attractive energy but so volatile as to have no real core identity for us to relate to or watch developing. She is more reactive than active, and in scene after scene we find her responding to a new situation in ways that seem disconnected to the way she responded to the scene before.

If there is a common thread to her behaviour it is a desire for greatness, but even that is so vaguely defined as to be able to encompass entering a convent (as the first step toward sainthood), flirting with the young man just to enjoy her power, being jealous of her husband's work because she can't take any credit for it and getting briefly puffed up because, although she's illegitimate, her father may have been a landowner.

Even in the end, being carted off by her husband along with his other luggage, she tries to convince herself that there is greatness somewhere in that fate.

But Katie's delusions are not the subject of the play. They don't generate what happens. They're just a collection of very vaguely similar responses to a string of separate incidents. It is an accomplishment that Wrenn Schmidt keeps us interested in Katie even as it becomes increasingly evident that there is less and less there to be interested in.

Patrick Fitzgerald may be too successful in showing us that there is very little malice in the husband's naturally cold personality, because the play and our image of Katie - might have been strengthened by the presence of a real villain.

The supporting cast serve the play generously, and the multi-camera recording of a live performance is thoroughly professional, though the sound is occasionally muddy.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Katie Roche - Mint Theater 2021