Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mary Broome: Funny, Fresh and Relevant after 101 years

Mary Broome is a 1911 comedy about an upstairs/downstairs relationship, which doesn’t seem to hold much promise of topicality in this day and age.  But watching this excellent production proves that the issues of family and class are just as relevant today as they were then, albeit in different forms.
Janie Brookshire as Mary Bloom & Roderick Hill as Leonard Timbrell
Mary Broome, of the title, is a pretty young maid at the Timbrell residence.  She has become pregnant after a dalliance with the younger, flightier son, Leonard Timbrell.  Leonard, an amusing layabout, is coerced into marriage by his father, who has had enough of his son’s laziness.   Humor is then found as Mary and Leonard try to live up to the Timbrell’s, and society’s, expectations.  Mary proves more adapt at this than Leonard, who continues to infuriate his father and perplex everyone else.
The smart and funny Leonard brings to mind any number of pampered and spoiled children of fame today, happy to be ironic but loath to move into adulthood.  It is an easy stereotype that crosses periods from Edwardian England to MTV.
The acting is excellent across the board, but four actor stand out mainly due to the size of their roles.  At the heart of the story is Leonard Timbrell, played Roderick Hill.  Mr. Hill keeps the charming Leonard grounded, in a role that could have easily slipped to smarmy.  Leonard is an eternal youth, not just unaware of responsibilities, but actively ignorant of them.  As Mary Broome, Janie Brookshire brings a sweet nature to the role.  Mary takes responsibility for her actions, scandalous at the time.  But Mary is confused by her new husband, unable to decipher the meaning in his tumultuous use of language.  Ms. Brookshire handles the role effortlessly, her Mary might be uneducated, but she is smart and self-reliant.  Mr. Hill and Ms. Brookshire create a chemistry that brings the relationship to life in an utterly believable manner.
Kristin Griffith and Graeme Malcolm play the parents, and they prove that parenting hasn’t changed much in a century.  Mr. Malcolm, as Leonard’s father, attempts to foist responsibility on his wayward son.  And Ms. Griffith, as Mrs. Timbrell, is a mother who protecting young Leonard.  Mother and son have a close relationship here, and she understands she has been too indulgent.  At the same time, Leonard sees a passion and intelligence in his mother that she has to keep cloaked in this England.  Ms. Griffith’s impression of Leonard comes through to the audience, building our tolerance of his antics.
Finally, I would be remiss not to point out Jill Tanner, who plays two roles perfectly.  In few words, but with a steady supply of understated looks and arched eyebrows, she consistently is the voice of the viewer.  She is outstanding without ever looking like she is trying.
The Mint Theater Company specializes in forgotten plays and they have struck gold in Mary Broome.  The perfect sense of time and place is created by wonderful sets and costumes - by Roger Hanna and Martha Hally respectively.  There is a cleaver use of pictures on stage that define one viewpoint of the proceedings.  Director Jonathan Bank has used his cast and crew judiciously to create a very relevant Mary Broome – well worth your time.
Mary Broome Cast (from left) Kristin Griffith, Julie Jesneck, Katie Fabel,
Rod Brogan Janie Brookshire, Graeme Malcolm and Roderick Hill

Mary Broome
Playwright: Allan Monkhouse
Director: Jonathan Bank
Cast: Rod Brogan, Janie Brookshire, Katie Fabel, Kristin Griffith, Roderick Hill, Julie Jesneck, Patricia Kilgarriff, Graeme Malcolm, Douglas Rees, Erica Swindell, Jill Tanner

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