Mint Theater at the Beckett Theater at Theater Row, New York
Visiting Mint Theater in New York has become one of the pandemic highlights. The company’s latest offering, as part of the Silver Lining Streaming Series, was recorded in front of a live audience in February 2013.
Artistic Director Jonathan Bank directs the latest offering, which was first produced in 1936. The action takes place in a comfortable cottage not too far from Dublin at that time, as always beautifully evoked by set and costume designers Vicki R Davis and Martha Hally.
Katie Roche is a drama from a Mint favourite, Irish playwright Teresa Deevy, and centres on an unlikely character, an illegitimate servant girl with proud ambitions portrayed by Wrenn Schmidt.
The play opens with the unexpected arrival at his sister Amelia’s home of Patrick Fitzgerald’s Stanislaus Gregg. Having lost touch with his roots, the visitor has to be reminded by the shy, eponymous servant girl that his arrival coincides with the red-letter day of the town’s regatta and dance. In Katie’s mind, it has added significance as her last dance, before prospective entry into holy orders as a nun. Instead, stiff, formal Mr Gregg not only talks about the young woman’s long-dead mother but shocks her with a marriage proposal.
Although she is attracted to the man twice her age, complications abound. Katie is already walking out with a young local lad, Jon Fletcher as Michael, while the arrival of a harsh but holy mystic, Reuben, informs the orphan of the character of her unknown parents. With so much going on, it had become surprise a to discover that her outlook changes swiftly but categorically. As if all of that is not enough, Stan also tries to broker a marriage for Margaret Daly as nervous Amelia, to a degree thanks to ulterior motives.
By act two, four months later, moody Katie’s life has been transformed by marriage and swiftly becomes filled with intrigue and unhappiness. The final act moves matters on to the next regatta exactly a year after the play’s opening scene, where many of the same characters return but the circumstances have altered leading to the kind of closure that could easily have provoked a sequel.
A combination of the recording and a strong accent means that occasionally viewers may struggle to understand some of the language, although the emotions are usually so strong that this doesn’t hinder enjoyment of the play too much.
Katie Roche is a fascinating portrait of a series of “queer”, in the old sense, folk, living in a past era with very different standards from those today.
Mint Theater has been a consistent star performer during these trying times with an exciting programme lined up for the first half of 2021. However, in order to continue, the company needs support so if you get a chance to watch yet another worthy revival, do think about making a contribution to what is a very worthy cause.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher