Lillian Hellman’s play Days to Come was never going to be an easy show, but I was surprised to find it the rare Mint Theater miss. It’s not that it is bad, it just isn’t compelling, and its one possible chance is hamstrung by timing.
Days to Come, written and premiered in 1936, meanders between the story of a manufacturing strike hitting a tight knit Ohio town and a secondary story about the factory’s owner’s wife.
|Larry Bull, Chris Henry Coffey, Ted Deasy, Rodrick Hill, Janie Brookshire
The story of the strike revolves around the impact of the strike on the factory owner, who loves this little town and its people. The factory owner, Andrew Rodman (an underused Larry Bull), is a good man forced to hold down wages which causes him great angst but it causes his co-owners, a business friend and his sister, no angst what so ever. In fact, the co-owners force him to hire “strikebreakers” and he is too naïve to know that this is just another term for hired guns. The handsome young union organizer played Roderick Hill, is under no such allusions. He tries to keep the striking workers from responding to the threats and taunts of the strikebreakers. If they respond physically, then the police (many of them newly deputized thugs) can arrest them and break the strike. And while this is the main story, most of that action happens off stage. The conflict is represented onstage by an old friend of the boss and the new union organizer who show up to try to talk sense into the owner, versus a stereotype of evil in the head thug (well played over the top by Dan Daily) and the uncaring sister (Kim Martin-Cotton).
And then there is the story revolving around the wife. Julia (Janie Brookshire) is barely a wife to the very passive Andrew – this is not Mr. Bull’s fault, the story is written in a manner to suggest he has a great weakness in character, manifest by the inability to inspire his wife. As in Ms. Hellman’s play Little Foxes, the female lead is headstrong and demanding. Here she is also an adulteress and ungrateful, bringing downfall upon the men that she crosses paths with. But in today’s age of #metoo, Ms. Brookshire plays her not as a narcissistic adult, but as a sensitive, albeit emotionally adolescent girlish-woman trying to come to grips with her feelings. I longed for a bit of 1930s Bette Davis or Joan Crawford to crawl out and let loose that she enjoyed her life, but no such luck. Her contemporary motivation was in stark contrast to the 1930’s attitude of all the other players. She dumps her husband’s business partner early in the show, but it isn’t more than a few moments before the brash handsome union organizer shows up. What will happen?
|Roderick Hill, Janie Brookshire
Days to Come wraps up this show with an attack on the striking workers, the end of the strike, the end of Mr. Bull’s hopes for a unified town, the end of at least one affair and one marriage and the ambivalence of Julia towards all of it. I was disappointed because I really do love the Mint and look forward to everything they present. This was a rare failure, despite some exceptional acting by Misters Bull, Hill and Daily.
Days to Come | Playwright: Lillian Hellmen | Director: J. R. Sullivan | Cast: Mary Bacon, Jane Brookshire, Larry Bull, Chris Henry Coffey, Dan Daily, Ted Deasy, Roderick Hill, Betsy Hogg, Kim Martin-Cotten, Geoffrey Allen Murhpy, Evan Zes