February 24, 2014

London Wall: In brief

In John Van Druten’s 1931 comedy, a young typist at a London solicitor’s office finds herself in the deep end of the steno pool when she takes up with a womanizing lawyer. Davis McCallum (The Whale) directs the rather overdue American premiere for the Mint.

London Wall: Theater review by Diane Snyder

Rediscovering forgotten plays is the Mint Theater Company’s métier, but its production of London Wall is as fine a showcase for rising director Davis McCallum and his nimble cast as it is for the late playwright John Van Druten. This carefully observed 1931 workplace drama is both of its time and ahead of it as it follows four single women working as typists at a law firm and navigating the rocky road of romance. Among them is young Pat (Elise Kibler), whose attractive suitor (Christopher Sears, adorably frisky) is passive and poor. She’s easily charmed by a wolfish lawyer (Stephen Plunkett, smoothly menacing), despite the cautions of Miss Janus (Julia Coffey, delivering the show’s most affecting performance), a coworker who’s weary, 35 and languishing with an inattentive fiancé.

In the early going, London Wall plays like a slightly stodgy dating guide, but as it progresses, Van Druten demonstrates a keen understanding of the plight of unmarried, underpaid working women. And it’s buoyed by great actors who make even the smaller roles shine, from young Matthew Gumley as an office boy to elder statesman Jonathan Hogan as one of the firm’s partners. The playwright’s best work (such as The Voice of the Turtle or Bell, Book and Candle) was still ahead of him, but McCallum & Co. playfully whip potential melodrama into involving, insightful entertainment.