The New Morality

The Story

THE NEW MORALITY, by Harold Chapin, takes us aboard a houseboat on a fashionable reach of the Thames in 1911, the hottest summer on record. Betty Jones has been simmering for weeks, watching her husband make an ass of himself by dancing attendance on their neighbor, Muriel Wister. Betty, "an amazing mixture of spitfire, penitent and hussy," finally boils over and tells Muriel exactly what she thinks of her—using bad language. Chapin's "most delicious of light comedies" tells the story of Mr. Wister's pursuit of how Betty restores dignity to her household and harmony to her marriage by losing her temper and making a scene.

Harold Chapin was a rising star, first an actor, then a director and author. He had numerous one-acts and three full-length plays produced between 1910 and 1914. Then he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corp, just after war was declared in England. Chapin died on the battlefield in 1915 at the age of 29, leaving behind a wife, a four-year old son, and one play which he never saw performed.

That play was THE NEW MORALITY—Chapin's finest comedic achievement—which remained unproduced until 1920. Finally it was offered for two performances in London by the newly revived 'Play Actors', a troupe dedicated to promoting its members and introducing new work. "Seeing that the Play Actors, who have just resumed operations after a long enforced silence, brought out as many as seven of the plays of the late Harold Chapin, it was appropriate enough that they should choose a hitherto unperformed piece by that thoughtful and brilliant dramatist," reported The Stage, calling the play "witty and sparkling."

"When Harold Chapin fell in France the modern British theatre lost a comic writer of high order," declared the Sunday Times. "For intellectual foolery his NEW MORALITY has no equal in present-day work." Not only did critics lament the loss to the English theatre when Chapin died, they also bemoaned the lack of perception among producers in London. "A play that ought to be snapped up by a manager and given a run," wrote the Illustrated London News. "It must be true that the taste for comedy, which is an educated taste, has very nearly disappeared from London," St. John Ervine quipped in the Guardian. "But it will, no doubt, come back again; and when it does this play will have its day."

While waiting for a London manager, THE NEW MORALITY played in New York in 1921. The New York Times found it "piquant and pleasing" but it only played a handful of matinees, unable to find a theater for a proper run. Finally, in 1925, it had a well-received London revival, followed by some regional success—but this delicate and charming comedy with "a real idea as the basis" has never received its proper due.

In 1957, Bennitt Gardiner, a columnist for The Stage wrote an impassioned piece under the headline "Why Not Revive Harold Chapin's Plays?," which expressed bafflement over "the long total eclipse of the plays of Harold Chapin," especially THE NEW MORALITY, which "has a dazzling lucidity, shrewd depths of intelligence and satirical wit with one superb Shavian 'big' speech clearly expressive of the author's personal vision, which entitles it to a permanent niche in the repertory of English high comedy."

He went on to predict:

Although it has taken far longer than predicted, that day has finally come. In honor of the centenary of Harold Chapin's heroic death on the battlefield in 1915, Mint Theater is proud to present THE NEW MORALITY, beginning August 22nd, 2015.

Cast

  • Christian Campbell
  • Clemmie Evans
  • Michael Frederic
  • Kelly McCready
  • Brenda Meaney
  • Ned Noyes
  • Douglas Rees

Creatives

  • Sets Steven C. Kemp
  • Costumes Carisa Kelly
  • Lights Christian DeAngelis
  • Original Music & Sound Jane Shaw
  • Props Joshua Yocom
  • Casting Judy Bowman
  • Dialects & Dramaturgy Amy Stoller
  • Production Stage Manager Kathy Snyder
  • Assistant Stage Manager Arthur Atkinson
  • Illustration Stefano Imbert
  • Graphics Hey Jude Design, Inc.
  • Advertising The Pekoe Group
  • Press David Gersten & Associates