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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
Conflict, unlike Yours Unfaithfully, did enjoy considerable success. It had a well received London run in 1925, and was made into a movie in 1931. Still, given how long ago that was, it fits Mint artistic director and chief archeologist Jonathan Bank's mission to give forgotten plays the Mint treatment. That means a handsome, well acted production. — which Conflict, as astutely staged by director Jenn Thompson at the Mint's Theater Row home, certainly is.
Like George Bernard Shaw's "discussion" plays, Conflict, though billed as a love story, also fits that Shavian genre since it's something of a debate about multiple social issues. But, even more than Shaw, Malleson avoided preachy polemics by skillfully using romance and snappy dialogue to tackle the politics of economic inequality, women's rights and less restrictive male-female relationships.
What's more, given the increased empowerment of the very rich and privileged all around us, as well as the #MeToo movement, this love story set in the roaring 20s and revolving around a hotly contested election, has a remarkably au courant flavor.
To keep things moving along at a fast, but still leirusrely feeling pace, Director Thompson has streamlined the three-act play into two parts. The first two acts are conflated with one scene to cover each act, and the third act's two scenes winding things up following the intermission.
Except for the third act's opening scene, the entire 2-hour long scenario unfolds in the elegant sitting room of Lord Bellingdon's (Graeme Malcom, a perfect lord of the manor who gets to deliver some of the best lines in order to flaunt his prideful belief in his enttleD status). To start things off, we have a scene that establishes the relationship between Bellington's younger conservative friend, Major Sir Ronald, Clive (Harry Clarke, a charmer but just as locked into his class and its mores as Lord Bellingon) and Bellington's daughter, Lady Dare (a delicious spoiled rich girl evokes a sense of being ripe for reform).
Lord Bellington welcomes Clive's romance with his daughter, but he's unaware that they've been sleeping together for several years — very much a no-no in those days. Lady Dare is perfectly happy this illicit arrangement, which makes her given name slyly symbolic. But Clive feels he is betraying her father and would like them to get married.
Hovering over Dare and this late night tête-à-tête is the ominous presece of a strange man mysteriously hanging out in the garden. That mystery is entertainingly and enlighteningly ratcheted up in the next scene in which Lord Bellington and Clive confront this stranger. The stranger turns out to be, not a burglar but a down-on his luck fellow named Tom Smith (Jeremy Beck, convincingly portraying a man journeying from total despair to man with a mission), who knows Clive from their days at Cambridge.
As for the above mentioned election campaign that drives the plot, by the time the intermission rolls around, Clive, who's the sure-to-win candidate of the firmly entrenched Conservative Party candidate, has unwittingly enabled Smith to become his quite formidable opponent. True to his gentlemanly value system, he as well as Lord Bellingdon have promised not to reveal Smith's minor (but to them major) unlawful act.
To rachet up both the political and romantic situations, hearing Smith's campaign speeches, puts a dent in Lady Dare heretofore unquestioning alliance with her priveleged class. Clearly, both personal and political conflicts are bound to heat up for a slam-bang finale.
While the opinionated Lord Bellingdon, his daughter and the two rival candidates are Conflict's pivotal characters the cast also includes two minor characters who make major contributions: Jasmin Walker as Lady Dare's sophisticated and wise older friend and confidante Mrs. Tremayne and Amelia White who is hilarously but amazingly on the mark as Smith's landlady Mrs. Robinson. SUM UP WHAT THEY SAY HERE???
MRS. TREMAYNE I don’t know. DARE If a fairy godmother came to you now and gave you a wish, what would you wish for? MRS. TREMAYNE Oh, my dear. I should have asked for all sorts of strange things when I was younger. I know what I should askfor now. DARE What. MRS. TREMAYNE I should askfor thegift of never being bored. What would you? MRS. ROBINSON Well — I went out last time there was one of theseelections. They comes in a car, and I gets in, and we goes to some place, and when we gets there—therewas three p’lice men ’anging about the door! SMITH Yes. MRS. ROBINSON Yes! Well! Although I say it p’rapsas shouldn’t, me an’ mine ’as always kept ourselves clear o’ that sort o’ thing. You don’t get me in there, I sez, nor they did, nor and never will. And her daugter opted for the picture show instead MRS. ROBINSON No, and if you’ll allow me to say so, youngman, that’s just where you’re wastin’ your time! Anybody can walk on their own two legs any day;’t isn’t everybody gets a chance toride in a motor-car. SMITH Well, you can ridein their cars and vote for me. MRS. ROBINSON (Suddenly immensely solemn and full of rebuke) Now that’s just whereyou’re wrong about the workin’ classes.The workin’ classes may ’ave their faults—I don’t say they ’aven’t—but trickiness ain’t oneof ’em. If a workingman goes in a car—and ’e will if ’e gets the chance, stand to reason—’e’ll do the decent thing; ’e’ll vote for theman wot’as the car. Lor’ now, look at the time. (She goes to the door.) Don’t you take no notice o’ me, sir. As Iwas sayin’ tomy daughter, “I’m sorry for ’im,” I sez, “but I can’t ’elp likin’ ’im, although ’e is a bit soft over ‘is ‘somethink alight in the BELLINGDON Envy… you’veonly got tolook at the things they propose. A lot of thieves and robbers. DARE Don’t you think you may be a little bit prejudiced? BELLINGDON I daresay.I hope so. If aman’s got an open mind hecan’t keep anythingin it. === four others who do add necessary others in the seven cast members for the ensemble — which also includes it does exactly what the play requires of it, which is saying someth Not to be underestimated in assessing the pleasures offered by the Mint's decision to introduce us to another Miles Malleson play, is the work of the design team t don’t underestimate the importance of Ryan Courtney’s props, As for the ensemble — which also includes Hannah Cabell, Natalia Payne, Jed Resnick and Luke Robertson — it does exactly what the play requires of it, which is saying somethin a galvanizing addition to this gallery. It is also a glorious, scary reminder of the unmatched power of live theater to rattle, roil and shake us wide awake.
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Conflict by Miles Malleson
Directed by Jenn Thompson. Cast: Jeremy Beck (), Henry Clarke (), Graeme Malcolm (), James Prendergast (), Jessie Shelton (),Jasmin Walker (), Amelia White ()
Sets: John McDermott Costumes: Martha Hally Lights: Mary Louise Geiger Sound: Toby Algya Props: Chris Fields Dialects & Dramaturgy: Amy Stoller Casting: Stephanie Klapper, CSA Production Stage Manager: Kelly Burns Stage Manager: Jeff Meyers Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minues, including 1 inermission
Mint at Beckett Theatre 410 West 42nd Street
From 5/25/18; opening 6/21/18; closing 7/21/18. Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30pm with matinees Saturday & Sunday at 2pm. Wednesday Matinees at 2pm on June 20th and July 18th.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 6/16/18 press preview
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