NEW YORK POST
TREASURE AT THE MINT
January 26, 2000
SOME playwrights are overlooked in their lifetimes, others unjustly forgotten after their deaths. A few are both.
One of these is the English playwright Harley Granville-Barker, a contemporary and friend of Bernard Shaw who was also an actor, director and Shakespearean scholar.
And he’s left three or four plays that are among the masterpieces of early 20th-century drama.
Don’t believe me? Go to the Mint Theater, which this week re-opened a perfectly splendid production of one of Granville-Barker’s finest plays, “The Voysey Inheritance.”
The only other time I have seen this totally engrossing play — about money, inherited wealth and morality — was in a much-praised 1989 staging for Britain’s National Theater, with a cast led by a very young Jeremy Northam and Michael Bryant.
Yes, it was better than this Mint production, but not much.
Gus Kaikkonen has directed a generally excellent cast in a beautifully balanced performance that offers some of the most entertaining and enthralling theater currently in New York.
At the beginning of “The Voysey Inheritance,” we learn that old Voysey (George Morfogen), a respected London lawyer, quietly has been living the rich life by speculating with the trust funds of his clients, always making sure that their supposed interest income is promptly paid.
His son Edward (Kraig Swartz) uncovers the scheme and is outraged. He immediately wants to go the police and tell all. Eventually, though, he is persuaded to do otherwise, and an attempt is made to restore the funds.
Then the father dies and the situation becomes murkier. Edward’s moral dilemma grows darker, especially when the family’s best friend, who had total trust in the father, decides to withdraw his capital — capital that largely has already been withdrawn.
The brilliance of the play is the manner in which conventional Edwardian morality (it’s set in 1911-13) is carefully and unexpectedly questioned, with twists of plot and argument that grab your mind.
And Granville-Barker fills his world with people who seem real enough to walk down the street after they leave the stage.
Kaikkonen has adapted the play slightly — cutting at least one character, Hugh, the artist in the Voysey family — but what is more important is the staging itself: Kaikkonen’s swift, idiomatic direction, Vicki R. Davis’ cleverly versatile settings, Henry Shaffer’s apt period costumes, and the stylish performances of the cast.
Morfogen is here well-cast as the ambiguously piratical lawyer, while Swartz does well as the puzzled but honest son being tossed like a moral matador on the horns of a dilemma. Sioux Madden is outstanding as the woman who understands and eventually loves him.
The whole play makes for an exceptional and fun evening in the theater. And better yet — it’s fun that even makes you think.