May 8, 1995

What J. M. Barrie Wrote About Before the Boy Who Could Fly ‘Quality Street’ Mint Theater Company

In 1901, still three years away from “Peter Pan,” J. M. Barrie wrote the sentimental comedy “Quality Street,” which has been resurrected by the Mint Theater Company through Sunday. Directed by Jonathan Bank, it beckons the theatergoer in search of clearly drawn characters, simple truths and a predictably happy ending, all delivered by able principals.

Set in an English town during the Napoleonic Wars, when women outnumbered men, “Quality Street” focuses on the Throssel sisters: the pretty Phoebe (Lisa M. Bostnar) and her plain sister, Susan (Barbara Becker), who has resigned herself to the life of a spinster. But Phoebe has high hopes, in the person of the dashing Dr. Valentine Brown (Tim Goldrick).

What he foolishly dashes are not only Phoebe’s expectations, by enlisting in the army, but also the sisters’ finances, by means of poor investment advice. During the next decade, the specter of poverty forces the ill-prepared Throssels into a difficult life as schoolmistresses.

When Captain Brown, himself wounded, returns after Waterloo to find a hardened Phoebe, who at 30 believes that she has lost her looks and that her life is over, “Quality Street” employs a case of mistaken identity to illuminate her true worth.

No need to worry about how everything turns out. Patience may fray a bit waiting for the inevitable, and thoughts of modern attitudes toward women’s lives may intrude, but taken on its own terms this period piece has its charms.