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Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories

Beginning January 23, 2020, Mint Theater Company will present a program of short plays adapted from stories by two of the world’s greatest authors, Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy. These dramatic adaptations come from one of our favorite playwrights, Miles Malleson, author of Mint productions, Conflict and Yours Unfaithfully, both New York Times Critic’s Picks.

As a playwright, screenwriter, director, producer, and character actor, Miles Malleson  (1888-1969) established himself as a theatre artist of dazzling versatility. Yet while Malleson “acted the fool most memorably” in dozens of plays and films, he was also a playwright of provocative wit, searching insight and, as described by The Manchester Guardian, a sense of “ethical passion” drawing upon a lifelong engagement in progressive politics.

Donogoo

In DONOGOO by Jules Romains, ambition and imagination collude to create fact out of fraud. The play tells the story of Lamendin, a desperate man, and Le Trouhadec, a professor of geography who longs for election to the Academy of Sciences. Together they unwittingly set in motion a stock market swindle of global proportions. Investors, pioneers and prospectors alike are driven to seek their fortune in Donogoo—a place that doesn’t exist.

Romains was born Louis-Henri-Jean Farigoule on August 26, 1885 in the village of Saint-Julien Chapteuil.  He spent most of his childhood in Paris, where his father was a teacher.  In 1902, he also published his first poem, “Le Chef-d’oeuvre” (“The Masterpiece”) in La Revue jeune.  He published under the pen name he would use the rest of his life—Jules Romains—so chosen because it was easy to pronounce, memorable, and expressed his love of Rome.

Mary Broome

“There must be no shortage of little-known, finely crafted, funny, thought-provoking plays exploring the fracturing of English society in the early twentieth century, because the Mint Theatre Company keeps coming up with them,”1 wrote the New Yorker of MARY BROOME. Monkhouse’s biting comedy tells the story of a household turned upside down by an upstairs/downstairs liaison between the ne’er do well son and the honest housemaid.

Allan Monkhouse (1858-1936) was a dramatist, novelist, and critic known for his piquant portrayal of middle class life in northern England. He startled audiences with complex characters, who pierced societal niceties as they grappled with the contradictions of a rapidly changing world.

A Little Journey

“The Mint Theater Company, one of New York’s most admired Off-Broadway troupes, specializes in neglected plays that have slipped through the cracks. More often than not it comes up with gems, among the most notable of which was Rachel Crothers’s SUSAN AND GOD, first seen in 1937 and revived by the Mint to impressive effect in 2006. Now the company has gone back to the same well with an equally strong staging of another Crothers play, A LITTLE JOURNEY, which hasn’t been performed professionally in New York since it closed on Broadway in 1919—and guess what? It’s just as good.”1

Rachel Crothers (1878-1958) was among America’s most successful and produced playwrights during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Nearly 30 of her plays opened on Broadway between 1906 and 1937.  “Although it rare now to find anyone who has heard of her,” wrote the New York Times in 1980, “Miss Crothers at the apex of her career was a symbol of success in the commercial theater.”

What The Public Wants

“The key character in WHAT THE PUBLIC WANTS is a driven media tycoon who reaches millions via dozens of publications. Through them, he seeks to entertain the many and influence the mighty. Not much has changed since Arnold Bennett wrote this in 1909. Now the play has been rescued from oblivion by the Mint Theater in a compelling, well-acted production. “1

In his lifetime, Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) ranked among the most influential and prolific authors in the world.  His work spanned nearly every category:  novels, plays, screenplays, short stories, essays, travelogues, war dispatches, reviews, pocket philosophies, and how-to books.  His novels were perennial best-sellers; his plays ran for hundreds of performances and his weekly book review was so powerful that it could make or break an author’s reputation.

The Glass Cage

“For anyone who cares about continuity in theater history, who wants to see connections between playwrights over centuries, the Mint Theater Company is heroic…For example, J.B. Priestley’s 1957 family drama THE GLASS CAGE is arguably the missing link between Ibsen’s bourgeois tragedies and the moody domestic-subversion shockers of Joe Orton and Harold Pinter,”1 writes David Cote In Time Out New York.

Priestley was born in the North England industrial town of Bradford.  In his teens, he quit school to become a clerk in the wool trade. Already an ardent Socialist, he wrote articles for a political journal, The Bradford Pioneer, in his spare time. He left these jobs to enlist in the army at the outbreak of World War I. He was wounded at the front in France, recovered, and was then sent back to the front. After mustard gas poisoning rendered him unfit for further battle, he was made an arranger of troupe “entertainments,” giving him early experience as a theatrical producer.

Walking Down Broadway

Dawn Powell wrote nearly 100 stories, 16 novels, and 10 plays—yet by the time of her death she was completely forgotten. As part of a season devoted to plays by American women, Mint offered the world premiere of her bittersweet 1931 drama WALKING DOWN BROADWAY.

“Always sharp, never cranky, and with a pagan’s delight in the pleasures of this world, Powell’s work elaborates the human comedy
with a vigor matched only by its unpretentious wisdom,” wrote one of her critics.

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