My 2017 Review of this production
Now Streaming Free at The Mint Theater March 22- May 16, 2021
Anne Meredith (Elisabeth Gray) and her husband Stephen (Max von Essen) seem to have an enviable marriage. While Stephen is suffering writer’s block, he has several novels under his belt with potential for more. Anne meanwhile has started an increasingly successful school. They’re attractive, smart, affectionate, financially secure, and modern.
When we meet, the Merediths are entertaining old, dear friends, the ever grounded Dr. Alan Kirby (Todd Servers), a sounding board for the couple, and Diana Streatfeld (Mikaela Izquierdo), lonely and flailing, just returned from a lengthy trip after the shocking death of her husband. The last member of the company is Stephen’s father, The Reverend Canon Gordon Meredith (Stephen Schnetzer), a strict, argumentative man who casts a long shadow.
Anne and Stephen are going through a patch of marital malaise. He’s sufficiently sensitive to apologize for moody, distancing behavior, but things have advanced too far. She suggests he spend some time at their London flat. “Go and get into mischief, get happy and start working again.” Famous last words. Stephen and Diana are drawn to one another. When Anne walks in on a moment of tenderness, Diana is abashed at her friend’s lack of reaction. In response to whether she minds, Anne responds, “Of course not, not with you.”
With the apparent liberal-minded acquiescence of Anne, Diana and Stephen, both in need of intimacy, begin an exuberant affair. “…fresh kiss, fresh courage…” The Meredith’s marriage at first improves. Call girls often protest they send husbands back home fulfilled and attentive. Both partners agree they are each other’s “big relationship,” so secure nothing can tear them asunder. When Anne, who didn’t think she could be hurt, feels unexpected jealousy, she beats herself up for “primitive” emotions. Then, she makes some pivotal behavioral resolutions.
This never produced 1933 play is extremely well written – psychologically astute, often wry, and despite what initially appears preposterous, in context, rather credible. Playwright Miles Malleson had a terrific feel for represented class and period. Rather than use the anticipated dramatic device of secrecy, feelings are rationally aired. Stephen’s father acts as society’s voice. Women are depicted as equal and independent. The ending is clever, but also real. Lightly presenting a provocative premise, the piece is entertaining and well mounted.
Director Jonathan Bank keeps the three act piece humming along, allowing for awkward pauses with finesse. The push/pull of liaisons is manifest as physically as it is verbally. Eschewing British accents, maintaining an even playing field, the piece emerges successfully in educated English. Use of the stage in accordance with energies and/or nerves is excellent.
Elisabeth Gray’s Anne Meredith is at first a bit chirpy, exhibiting emotion with some very odd facial expressions. Gray gets better as the play proceeds. A prolonged building of tears to believable sniffles is well handled. The actress later skillfully adds a kind of numbness to visible pride and determination.
As Diana, Mikaela Izquierdo is entirely sympathetic. A marvelous, split-second pause when Anne indicates she’ll allow the affair couldn’t be better. Diana’s conscience and gratitude are both made palpable.
Max von Essen is splendid as Stephen. We accept his selfishness, obtuse naivete, exuberance, and sincerity. Issues with the character’s father feel longstanding. Von Essen shows Stephen taking his medicine with just the right halting, internal conflict.
Todd Cerveris is consistently natural as the thoughtful, ballast-providing Alan. Stephen Schnetzer (The Reverend), who just stepped into his role, gets his ground in scene two becoming morally stern rather than stiff.
Carolyn Mraz’s fine sets offer period-correct atmosphere with individual aesthetic touches (love the color) easily attributable to the play’s characters. Costumes by Hunter Kaczorowski are flattering and distinctive.
Photos by Richard Termine
Opening: Max von Essen, Mikaela Izquierdo, Elisabeth Gray
Yours Unfaithfully by Miles Malleson
Directed by Jonathan Bank