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A CurtainUp Review
---The Original Review by Elyse Sommer
But why fuss about years of neglect. Let's just rejoice that Lawrence, best known as a novelist and short story writer, has been brought back to the attention of theater goers on both sides of the ocean, most recently by that intrepid rescuer of forgotten plays, the Mint Theater Company.
The Daughter-In-Law treads the same emotional and sociological territory as Lawrence's classic novel, Sons and Lovers -- the story of a dominating mother's hold on her son integrated into an intense portrayal of the working class residents in Eastwood, the mining town near Nottingham where Lawrence grew up. Both novel and play were written about the same time though the latter, like the seven other plays he wrote, was not produced during his lifetime (1885-1930).
The drama has the actors speaking in the colorful Eastwood dialect in which it was written. It's a language that will require you to pay close attention so that your ear can become acclimated to it. Like most old-fashioned three-act plays this one is now presented with a single intermission, the break in this case coming before the final and most poweful act.
The story unfolds in the homes of the two Mrs. Gascoynes, one a miner's widow and mother of two miners, the other her daughter-in-law. Except for a framed motto, "Abide with me", the sparely furnished home of the older Mrs. G. and her unmarried son Joe lacks any sign of genteel living. By contrast, the home of the recently married Luther and Minnie, with its neat curtains and cupboard filled with pretty dishes, immediately establishes that this marriage has crossed class lines. The title character, like the playwright's own mother, has middle class aspirations and is more educated and worldly than her husband, having spent years away from Eastwood as governess to a wealthy family. But while the differences in education and aspiration may seem to be at the root of what's troubling these young people's still new marriage, their problems go much deeper. This is made clear by Lawrence's astute and foresighted delving into the long-building oedipal relationship between the mother and her sons
Since Lizzie Loveridge summed up the details of this well-made kitchen sink drama and assessed its relevancy to today's audiences fully and accurately, I'll avoid repetition and ask you to click to her review while I fast forward right to the specifics of the production that just opened officially at the Mint's Off-Broadway home.
Director Martin L. Platt, a newcomer to the Mint but an eighteen year veteran of theatrical helmsmanship in England, Europe and US regional theaters, has ably captured the claustrophobic life of a by-gone era and the frustration of go-nowhere jobs. Against this background there is also the ever up-to-date struggle of men and women to deal with the emotional baggage of family influence, insecurity, and the inability to communicate. His efforts are brought to full fruition by an outstanding cast.
Mikel Sarah Lambert and Angela Reed, both Mint regulars, are especially impressive as the elder and younger Mrs. Gascoyne respectively. Lambert is everybody's mother with apron strings tight as an uncut umbilical cord. Reed's Minnie is fussy, house proud yet visibly and touchingly needy. Gareth Saxe convincingly evokes Luther's mix of weakness and frustration fed male macho. The scene in which he comes home to Minnie, his face blackened from a day in the mines, movingly reveals the young couple's positive and negative tensions which come to a climax when the hurts between them spill out into her wistful "Did you never care for me?" and his pained comeback: "You never wanted me-- you thought me dirt."
To round out the overall excellence of the performances there's Jodie Lynne McClintock as the mother of a less uppity girl Luther impregnanted before Minnie decided to finally come back to Easton marry him; also Peter Russo as the younger brother. Bill Clarke's well-detailed scenic design smoothly transitions from the mother-in-law's to the daughter-in-law's home, both atmospherically lit by Jeff Nellis. Holly Poe Durbin's costumes add to the pre-World War I period authenticity.
To make sure that you're not too confused about "ahta goin on" the program includes a helpful glossary of mining terms, including Lizzie's favorite alternative for gossip, "clat-fart." For sure, seeing this rare revival won't leave you "chuntering. " (grumbling).
If you didn't click on the review of the London production above, here it is again: The Daughter-In-Law at the Young Vic
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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