The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
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
Women Without Men
Mint Theater Summer 2020Y
New York's Mint Theatre
specialises in rediscovering neglected plays from the first half of
the Twentieth Century, like this 2016 staging of a 1938 drama by
Irish writer Hazel Ellis.
The strengths of the
play lie in its close
examination of small lives; the weaknesses of the play lie in how
little it actually finds.
This is an almost
plotless character study
of a group of teachers in the staff lounge of a small girls' school.
Any hints of
salaciousness in the title are misleading. The fact that
the live in an all-female world is less significant than the hermetic
claustrophobia of their world, and the way being together brings out
the worst in them.
While there is
eventually a crisis, and one
character leaves under a cloud, the main focus is on the petty
day-to-day conflicts and the cost of such small lives to their souls.
The characters are a
cross-section of stereotypes. There's the
dessicated spinster, the snobbish pedant, the bright-eyed newcomer,
the cynic and so on.
Comically tiny squabbles
of the 'You're in my
chair' sort alternate with glimpses into the pathetic emptiness of
their lives. Alliances and betrayals come and go with a speed and
randomness that would bewilder even their adolescent charges.
is much that rings true here, but there is also much that is totally
predictable once the stereotypes have been established. Nobody and
nothing really changes – which, of course, may be part of the
point, but which does not make for gripping drama.
Faced with playing
characters written with only one note each, the cast and director
Jenn Tuompson take the only choice really available to them – full
commitment to the text, without a hint of condescension or ironic
distancing, and their dedication carries the play over some of its
are Emily Walton as the
newbie, Mary Bacon as the cynic and Kellie Overbey as the snob.
The multi-camera recording is skilled, though the sound quality wavers.
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