Monday, March 20, 2023
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Women Without Men - a must see refreshing MINT revival

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

Would be playwrights, actors, directors, lighting, sound, set and costume designers (as well as producers) of both sexes should make a point of seeing the MINT Theater Company’s excellent revival of WOMEN WITHOUT MEN. And learn.

The MINT may have lost their old home but not their expert touch in reviving long lost plays – shaking off any residue of mothballs and bringing them to renewed life for an appreciative audience. In this case WOMEN WITHOUT MEN – by Hazel Ellis who wrote only two plays.

What could be staid and stuffy – under the careful and illuminating guidance of Jenn Thompson isn’t. All the characters are brought to vivid life – each displaying carefully chosen traits.

Their humanity and humor are exposed and sometimes their tempers boil over as they bicker among themselves. Isolated from men and the rest of the world they teach at a small, private Protestant all girls boarding school – Malyn Park – 1937 Ireland – where rules and regulations are the norm with the clashing of sensitive egos running a close second.

Polite bickering replaces caustic bitchiness. Bitterness also rears its ugly head when newcomer Miss Jean Wade – an excellent Emily Walton (they are all Miss something or other and equally excellent) arrives in the well-worn teachers’ sitting room. A lovely unit set by Vicki R. Davis.

Miss Wade is younger and perhaps more attractive with sense and sensibility and charm to boot. Plus she is engaged to the only man mentioned. She’s testing the waters so to speak. An older Miss Connor (Kellie Overbey) who has been writing a book for quite a while is not amused and a bit jealous when some students offer Miss Wade a simple bouquet of flowers which she displays in order to share them with the others.

It is when Miss Connors’ manuscript is found torn to shreds that claws come out. The outcome is the meat of the play. A butterfly brooch worn by Miss Wade becomes most important as they attempt to find the culprit. It’s a bit of Agatha Christie – which is a good thing – allowing for the humanity of the teachers to be exposed as well as the culprit.

Beatrice Tulchin, Shannon Harrington and Alexa Shae Niziak portray students admirably in this exceptional ensemble.

Favorite teacher awards go to Aedin Moloney as a woeful Miss Willoughby and Dee Pelletier as Madamoiselle Vernier who shines in the humor department. Mary Bacon, Joyce Cohen, Kate Middleton and Amelia White all contribute to the enjoyment of the dialogue that is sharp and insightful.

They are outfitted in the style of the period by Martha Hally with terrific wig and hair design by Robert-Charles Vallance. Atmospheric lighting by Traci Klainer Polimeni adds a warm glow and the student’s songs heard between scene changes set the tone precisely. It’s a lovely production.

At City Center Stage II. Through March 26th

Photo: Richard Termine

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