NEW YORK POST
'DOBSON'S' CHOICE AT THE MINT
May 15, 2001
IMAGINE a younger contemporary of Shaw’s, an English woman of strongly feminist slant who wrote bitter comedies about women trapped by oppression.
Imagine her most successful play, written in 1908, about a young shop girl embittered by her bleak life in a dormitory run by the store.
Then she unexpectedly inherits a neat little sum from an unknown relative and decides to go off to Switzerland and spend it all at once on “a crowded hour of glorious life.”
This play, a sprightly, witty, heartbreaking mix of Shaw and social reality, was a tremendous hit in London and New York and has not been seen since.
The Mint, that exciting place, is reviving, for the first time since 1908, “Diana of Dobson’s” by Cicely Hamilton, under the intelligent, moving direction of Eleanor Reissa.
Hamilton was a lively creature, a suffrage advocate and, in World War I, a founder of a hospital and a repertory troupe in France for the soldiers.
As a playwright, she was mainly a propagandist, but in “Diana of Dobson’s” she devised an unusual blend of her political themes, her gift for life and a Shavian structure. Imagine a “Pygmalion” that the heroine scuttles.
Young Diana Massingberd is a sharp, smart, embittered young woman whom we first see in the dormitory of Dobson’s Drapery Emporium.
Rachel Sledd is animated, beautiful, sarcastic and ironic as Diana; this is a wonderful performance, that constantly makes us feel the cost of intelligence.
In Switzerland, Diana is more than adequate in dealing with greedy, rich old ladies and smitten, foolish men. Mikel Sarah Lambert is perfect as the haughtiest society lady. She is the aunt of Victor, a shy oaf, portrayed with excellence by Karl Kenzler.
This is a fine play with a number of points to make – the injustices of treating working women as slaves and the cold greed of the possessors, of course, but also the absolute need for fantasy and the possibility of personal change.
It’s an exciting discovery of the Mint, beautifully acted and remarkably moving.