Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Jill Tanner

An Independent Woman Before Her Time: Hindle Wakes*


*The title’s double entendre refers both to social awakening in the Lancashire town of Hindle and to “Wakes Week,” the seven to ten days when mills and factories would shut down for workers’ vacations.

It’s 1912. Mill worker Christopher Hawthorn (Ken Marks) and his wife (Sandra Shipley) lie in wait for their daughter, Fanny, (Rebecca Noelle Brinkley) to return from holiday in order to confront her. They’re fairly sure the seemingly “good girl” has spent her weekend with a man.

Jeremy Beck and Jonathan Hogan

Mrs. Hawthorn vibrates with fury. How dare her daughter ruin chances for a decent marriage, not to mention the family’s reputation! Actress Sandra Shipley emits the unusual syntax as if born to it. We’re immediately able to guage community values. Vehemence is palpable. Fanny’s father is – tempered. Though the strong-willed, unrepentant young woman at first denies it, truth is revealed through a bizarre coincidence.

The “cad” in question is Alan Jeffcote (Jeremy Beck), son of mill owner Nathanial Jeffcote (Jonathan Hogan) and his wife (Jill Tanner). Nat and Chris (as they refer to each other) rose together from poverty. Despite vast social and economic difference, they remain good friends. Still, status prevents a relationship between the young people. Further exacerbating circumstances, Alan is engaged to Beatrice Farrar (Emma Geer), a union that would further both families.

Jonathan Hogan and Brian Reddy

Chris is nagged up the hill by his wife to address what happened with the boy’s father and secure a promise of marriage. Appalled, Nat vows to “see that she’s (Fanny) treated right.” Plans for his own legacy and that of the business seem dashed by the unfortunate liaison. “Why hadn’t thou the sense to pay for your pleasures?!” he demands when the boy returns home. (You’ll get accustomed to the dialect.) Mrs. Jeffcote puts the blame on Fanny, whom she believes should be paid off. Upward mobility changes people.

Jeremy Beck is thoroughly credible as the egotistical, obtuse young scion. He protests, but doesn’t over dramatize and is perceptibly shocked when things don’t turn out as assumed. Rebecca Noelle Brinkley seems vague in Act I and then sullen, but comes into her own when Fanny finally speaks her mind.

Jeremy Beck and Emma Geer; Rebecca Noelle Brinkley, Jill Tanner, Jonathan Hogan

Jonathan Hogan’s Nathanial is one of the great pleasures of this production. Integrity is not unduly stiff. Nuanced expression and response (he listens) make him compelling. When Mrs. Jeffcote insists Alan didn’t get his proclivity from her side of the family, Nat wryly responds, in pitch perfect tone, “Adam. He got it from Adam.”

The Jeffcots inform Alan’s fiancé and her father, Sir Timothy (Brian Reddy who adds appealing emotional color), and then deal with the Hawthorns. Alan responds to threats. He and Beatrice have surprisingly opposite opinions about what must occur, as, it turns out to everyone’s shock, do Alan and Fanny.

Emma Geer, Brian Reddy, Jill Tanner, Jeremy Beck, Jonathan Hogan

Stanley Houghton’s 1912 play skewers its era’s social mores without proselytizing or cliché psychology. Characters are decidedly multidimensional. Humor and irony arrive impactful as well as entertaining. We utterly believe these people as written and played and are drawn in to what might be hackneyed, but turns out intriguing. A good looking, worthy production of work you’d otherwise never see.

Also featuring Jill Tanner’s realistic Mrs. Jeffcote, Emma Geer, in the role of insightful, if custom-bound Beatrice, Ken Marks’ understated, viscerally pained Christopher Hawthorn, and a self conscious Sara Carolynn Kennedy as Ada, the maid.

Rebecca Noelle Brinkley and Jeremy Beck

Director Gus Kaikkoen astutely defines his characters. There’s some splendid small stage business-like when Fanny wistfully, almost absently fingers the Jeffcote’s fancy tablecloth at a pivotal juncture. Where each person sits when trying to agree on action signals stature and attitude. A sudden, passionate clinch reads real rather than stagey. Detail includes a lovely whoosh when the gas chandelier goes on. Well crafted.

Dialects (Amy Stoller) are for the most part as crisp and natural as they are iconoclastic.

Charles Morgan’s Sets feature ornate, iron ceiling work and rooms framed in dark wood which keep visuals from being heavy while establishing solidity. Change from mill cottage to that of gentry is well executed. Costumes (Sam Fleming) are personal to character, displaying status and taste. Gerard Kelly’s Hair and Wigs credibly flatter. Lighting Design by Christian DeAngelis subtly makes the most of shadow.

Photos Courtesy of Mint Theatre
Opening: Sandra Shipley, Rebecca Noelle Brinkley, Ken Marks

Mint Theater Company presents
Hindle Wakes by Stanley Houghton
Directed by Gus Kaikkonen
Theatre Row, The Clurman Theatre 
410 West 42nd Street

A Day by the Sea – Is There Life After Forty?


In a note on 1953’s A Day by the Sea, its playwright N.C. Hunter suggests that 40 signifies “…a foot in two worlds, half way between youth and age, promise and achievement…(with time) to succeed, to reshape one’s life…” The terms “urgency,” “crisis,” and “last chance” are employed. Think of films during that period when a woman that age was matronly, a man irrevocably settled into his future. Now reflect on contemporary timelines.

Pointedly featuring five generations of characters each of which views life from its own perspective, the piece gives us a glimpse into an upper class (civil servant) strata of British society, its morality, judgments, and expectations.

Directing Austin Pendleton Sets Charles Morgan Costumes Martha Hally Lights Xavier Pierce Original Music & Sound Jane Shaw Props Joshua Yocom

Front: Jill Tanner and George Morfogen; Back: Julian Elfer and Philip Goodwin

Julian Anson (Julian Elfer), a mid level, type A, foreign service diplomat, inherited the family manse from his father, but spends practically no time there. His idealistic, self-glorified responsibility is improving international relations, eschewing all leisure and personal relationships. He eats, sleeps and breathes his job finding inadequacies everywhere, attending profoundly larger issues than the construction of a new pig sty.

The estate is run by Julian’s stolid mother, Laura Anson (Jill Tanner), who can’t really talk to her son. She’s as oblivious to world affairs as he is to the vicissitudes of running his childhood home. Puritanical, maternal concern permeates every conversation. When Julian waxes on about a brighter future, her reaction is “You’re getting quite eloquent, dear. We must find you a soapbox in Hyde Park.”

Directing Austin Pendleton Sets Charles Morgan Costumes Martha Hally Lights Xavier Pierce Original Music & Sound Jane Shaw Props Joshua Yocom

Katie Firth and Jill Tanner

Additional occupants are Laura’s elder, infirm brother David (George Morfogen) and his paid attendant, Doctor Farley (Philip Goodwin). David clearly lived a robust life now drifting in and out of exotic memories. The doctor is an often angry, philosophizing drunk, thought to be cheaper than someone more qualified. Having lost wife and son, at 56, he’s retreated to this position with bitterness.

Summer visitors include Frances Farrar (Katie Firth) and her two children. Orphaned quite young, Frances was raised on the estate side by side with Julian, but hasn’t been back in 20 years. Her first, considerably older husband died a soldier. The second, a much younger and more fragile man, attempted suicide when she left him causing scandal. Life has happened taking its tolls. Nanny Maddie (Polly McKie), a lonely spinster at 35, affectionately manages Frances’s two children.

Directing Austin Pendleton Sets Charles Morgan Costumes Martha Hally Lights Xavier Pierce Original Music & Sound Jane Shaw Props Joshua Yocom

Polly McKie and Philip Goodwin

Long story short: Priggish Julian is forced to reconsider his life when the earth shifts beneath him. Frances receives some discomfiting resolution. Doctor Farley is presented with an option. Laura kind of gets her son back.

Hunter’s work has been compared to that of Chekhov. His characters are less earthy and fiery, but familial context, reflection of an era, and reexamination of one’s identity conforms. The play feels slow. Others despite clocking in at almost three hours do not. It’s impossible to tell how much of this is attributable to the script and how much to the production, which is not, in my opinion, up to high Mint Theater standards.

Directing Austin Pendleton Sets Charles Morgan Costumes Martha Hally Lights Xavier Pierce Original Music & Sound Jane Shaw Props Joshua Yocom

Julian Elfer and Katie Firth

George Morfogen’s David is pitch perfect. Every time the character speaks, reality infuses the scenario. The actor moves and watches like the old man. The same can be said for Polly McKie’s Maddie (Miss Mathieson) with whom we feel instant, then increasing empathy. (Her Scottish accent is sublime)

As played by Katie Firth, the underwritten Frances is a bit slow on the uptake even for her personality, but the actress has made plausible decisions which hold. Both Julian Elfer (Julian) and Jill Tanner (Laura) have long, effective segments one wishes were more dependable. Philip Goodwin chews scenery.

Directing Austin Pendleton Sets Charles Morgan Costumes Martha Hally Lights Xavier Pierce Original Music & Sound Jane Shaw Props Joshua Yocom

Julian Elfer and Jill Tanner

Austen Pendleton’s Direction is radically uneven. There are wonderful small gestures – Julian formally sits without unbuttoning his suit jacket while the doctor buttons his when Frances approaches. In crisis, Julian sits dejectedly on a swing; his mother comes up behind, holding both ropes as she consoles him. A dramatic scene between Julian and Frances shows both actors to their best, nuanced advantage as does a poignant one between Doctor Farley and Maddie. On the other hand, we have children in the space doing nothing (like sticks); there are actors who seem to disappear when not speaking, intermittent lack of focus during dialogue, and cast members so theatrically flamboyant embodiment is left in the dust of bravado.

Minimal, painterly Set by Charles Morgan is pleasantly evocative. Love the tree swing and use of overhead paintings. Martha Hally’s Costumes effortlessly put us firmly in time, place, and class.

Amy Stoller’s Dialect Coaching achieves a mishmash. Some accents are clearly faux, some inconsistent, some non-existent.

Also featuring: Curzon Dobell as William Gregson, estate accountant, a splendid Sean  Gormley gracefully inhabiting the role of diplomat Humphrey Caldwell, with the immensely self conscious Kylie McVey and Athan Sporek as Frances’s two children.

Photos by Richard Termine
Opening: Katie Firth & Julian Elfer

Mint Theater Company presents
A Day by the Sea by N.C. Hunter
Directed by Austin Pendleton
The Beckett Theater
410 West 42nd Street