The New York Times

The Suitcase Under the Bed

August 25, 2017

Thank heaven for the unwavering commitment of Jonathan Bank, the theatrical archaeologist whose Mint Theater Company unearths long-forgotten plays and imbues them with new life. Perhaps his greatest discovery is Teresa Deevy (1894-1963), an Irish dramatist who flourished at the Abbey Theater in Dublin in the 1930s. (Deaf from 20, she later wrote radio plays.)

Since 2010, the Mint has staged three of her works, and now — with “The Suitcase Under the Bed” at the Beckett Theater — it presents four one-acts, including her best-known short play, “The King of Spain’s Daughter.” The “Suitcase” of the evening’s title, true to Mr. Bank’s mission, refers to luggage discovered among Deevy’s belongings that yielded an abundance of scripts.

Deevy’s work often bears a feminist subtext uncommon in her country in her day. In “Strange Birth,” Sara (Ellen Adair), a dowdy 31-year-old cleaning woman, guardedly observes her clients’ romantic misfortunes, cherishing the safety of her unmarried status until a letter arrives and upends her assumptions. “Birth” is perhaps more benign to its protagonist than any of the evening’s other plays, and given Ms. Adair’s sensible yet magnetic Sara, it seems only fair.

“In the Cellar of My Friend” concerns the 20-something Barney and Belle (A. J. Shively and a glowing Sarah Nicole Deaver), childhood sweethearts who have found romance, until Barney’s officious father (Colin Ryan), a widower with designs on Belle, intervenes. What emerges is a subtle portrait of paternal psychological abuse, which Barney’s sympathetic aunt (Cynthia Mace) can only helplessly observe.

In “Holiday House,” a well-to-do family reunites one summer at the clan home, emotional baggage in tow. Derek (Mr. Ryan), is married to Jil (Gina Costigan), while his brother, Neil (Aidan Redmond), is married to Doris (Ms. Adair, again fine), who happens to be Derek’s ex. The smarmy Derek nevertheless flirts with the susceptible Doris. His dowager mother (Ms. Mace) might also be charmed by him, but his jittery sister, Hetty (Ms. Deaver), has her doubts. The open-ended conclusion is unsettling.

Ms. Deaver, impressive in her previous roles of the evening, soars in “The King of Spain’s Daughter,” as Annie Kinsella, a rural working-class girl with lusty appetites and rich imagination, despite her physically threatening father (Mr. Redmond). Peter (Mr. Shively), an impoverished laborer courting her, is confounded by Annie’s outsize ambitions, but understandably enchanted by her untamed tresses and unbounded joie de vivre.

True to Mint tradition, Andrea Varga’s costumes and Jane Shaw’s gentle sound design reflect a rich understanding of the era, as does Mr. Bank’s assured direction. He clearly adores Deevy, and ultimately so will the audience.