Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Yours Unfaithfully: Mint Theater Surprises Again

The Mint Theater Company specializes in publishing forgotten or lost plays, often from British writers of the 1920s or 30s. Their latest offering, Yours Unfaithfully, is a revelation that it could be written in 1933. It is a charming drawing room comedy built around an open marriage and the effects on the married couple in the center.
Stephen and Anne have been married for eight years and have two children. Max Von Essen and Elisabeth Grey bring a real sense of love and carrying to these two people. Stephen has begun to feel unmoored and anxious in the marriage. Anne thinks a new adventure might be the perfect thing to restore his mood and she proposes he be a bit naughty.  This advice doesn't’ come from out of the blue.
Max Von Essen, Mikaela Izquierdo and Elisabeth Gray in Yours Unfaithfully.
Stephen and Anne are progressive thinkers. Anne founded a school because she couldn’t find one progressive enough for her children. As for Stephen, he chaffs under the tutelage of he father, a scholar and pastor (John Hutton in fine form). In fact, Anne herself had affairs out of marriage with Stephen’s full knowledge and support and their marriage is stronger than ever.
Visiting for the weekend are friends Diane (Mikaela Izquierdo) and Alan (Todd Cerveris), and Anne thinks Diane might be just the right fling for Stephen. Diane is a widow and is just coming back to London. Stephen agrees and begins to romance Diane immediately. Any qualms are smoothed by Anne telling Diane that this affair is great by her and will help rejuvenate Stephen.
Playwright Miles Malleson (center) in the Importance of Being Ernest
Yours Unfaithfully is fascinating on several levels. The most obvious is the idea of an open marriage in the early 1930s in England. It runs against our assumptions of the morals of the time. Added to this is that the play was written by Miles Malleson, who famously had an open marriage at the time. He was a well received playwright, but this one was never staged. It is based not only on his marriage, but on the open marriage of the headmaster of the progressive school they sent their children to. Malleson had three marriages between 1922 and 1931 and his take on the idea seems to be ambivalent, if we judge from the play.
When Stephen begins his "mischief", Anne is appalled to find that she is jealous. She views it as a personal shortcoming. Stephen finds that he misses Anne all the more when he isn’t with her. There is a surprisingly unexpected ending, twirling on the assumptions that we make.
The acting here is lovely. Drawing room comedies of manners take a certain talent; the speeches are long an talky and can easily fall into falseness. In this story, Stephen, his father and Anne all engaged in long discussions, explaining positions and ideas. Max Von Essen, on whom the play turns, delivers a perfect performance of a man self-assured and confident in his beliefs. The character of Stephen could easily fall into the cad or braggart category and Mr. Von Essen avoids both.
Elisabeth Gray, Max Von Essen
Director Jonathan Bank, who is also the artistic director of the Mint, does a wonderful job. The Mint sets their plays in period and lets them speak to us in their own language, cadence and charm. Yours Unfaithfully pulls this off marveloursly.
Yours Unfaithfully | Playwright: Miles Malleson | Director: Jonathan Bank | Cast: Todd Cerveris, Elisabeth Gray, John Hutton, Mikaela Izquierdo, Max Von Essen

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