The New Morality, extended to October 25th with a closing night party Mint-ophiles will want to attend. The BIG news, the Mint is moving from its current digs at 311 W 43 St to an as yet unknown destination.
Changing social mores are often cause for consternation. A breach in decorum could lead to upheaval. In the 1920’s, this new liberalism was widely labelled a new morality. Harold Chapin had a lot to do with the coining of the phrase that was associated with liberalism and different social norms. Chapin, a popular playwright and a war hero who met his untimely death on the battlefield in 1915, left behind a comedy, The New Morality, that was first produced posthumously in 1921 to great acclaim.
The breach in The New Morality, at the Mint through October 18th, seems very slight, yet it unleashes a very funny and poignant play.
The Mint Theater Company launches The New Morality in order to commemmorate the centenary and honor the memory of a very fine playwright.
Chapin’s comedy of ill-manners invokes a Shavian heroine ala Man and Superman. In The New Morality, Betty Jones (the superb Brenda Meaney) makes a scene heard up and down river from the deck of her neighbor’s houseboat. Her outrage is over the dance Muriel Wister (an off-stage presence) has led her husband, Col Ivor Jones (Michael Frederic).
Betty will eventually be championed by an unexpected and unlikely source. In the meantime, she has the support of her faithful and mild-mannered friend, Alice Meynell (Clemmie Evans.) Mueriel’s husband, Teddy (Ned Noyes) has the unhappy task of demanding an apology on his wife’s behalf.
Watching Noyes’ Teddy spontaneously combust while “in his cups” is one of the many pleasures The New Morality affords.
Is Betty’s moral indignation –and subsequent inflexibility– a new standard for right and wrong?The sense that women act, feel, react, think and see differently from men is a commonplace of psychology. In our modern parlance, human beings are divided as Martians and Venusians, and this observance underlies much of the story of The New Morality. Vive la différence!
The acting, with Jonathan Bank’s tender mercies as director, is perfect. The ensemble are all excellent and accomplished, including Kelly McCready as the maid, Lesceline, and Douglas Rees as a dedicated manservant, Wooten.
Brenda Meaney’s Betty stands out in the cast, displaying a willfulness that is as charming as it is exasperating.
For more information on The New Morality and the 2015-16 Mint season, please visit http://minttheater.org/