Posted in Cliff Bemis, Cynthia Darlow, George Kelly, Jesse Marchese, Kristin Griffith, Patricia Kilgariff, romantic comedy, Sean Patrick Hopkins, The Mint Theatre, Victoria Mack

"The Fatal Weakness" afflicts us all

As human beings, we are all to a greater or lesser degree, sentimental creatures.

Before the curtain rises on “The Fatal Weakness” by George Kelly.
Set design for The Mint Theater production by Vicki R. Davis.
Photo by Richard Termine.

“The Fatal Weakness,” written by George Kelly in 1946, in revival at The Mint Theater through October 26th, is man’s (and woman’s) essential romanticism.

Kristin Griffith as Mrs. Ollie Espenshade in “The Fatal Weakness” by George Kelly.Photo by Richard Termine.

It leads Mrs. Ollie Espenshade (Kristin Griffith) to attend random weddings and her husband Paul (Cliff Bemis) to find a little extra kick in his step.

Cliff Bemis as Mr. Paul Espenshade and Victoria Mack as Penny Hassett
in George Kelly’s “The Fatal Weakness,” at the Mint. Photo by
Richard Termine.

On the other hand, their daughter, Penny Hassett (Victoria Mack) wears a veneer of cynical bravado. Can her free-thinking views on marriage be upended by her husband Vernon’s (Sean Patrick Hopkins) staunch fidelity?

“The Fatal Weakness” is a top-shelf drawing room comedy.Under Jesse Marchese’s direction, George Kelly’s upper crust comedy is perfectly paced. The actors, all outstanding, bring this charming play to life. Kristin Griffith, as Ollie, is centerstage, and gives a wonderfully nuanced performance.

Kristin Griffith as Ollie, Cliff Bemis as Paul, and Cynthis Darlow
as Mrs. Mabel Wentz in “The Fatal Weakness” by George Kelly.Photo by Richard Termine.

Ollie’s friend Mrs. Mabel Wentz (Cynthia Darlow)  delights in carrying tales. She has no illusions about why Paul has begun whistling and paying such careful attention to his wardrobe. Hers is a kind of inverse of romanticism.  Unlike Penny or Ollie, Anna (Patricia Kilgarriff),  the household maid, may be the only one completely clear-eyed about how relationships prosper or end.

Patricia Kilgarriff as Anna with Kristin Griffith as Ollie in
“The Fatal Weakness” by George Kelly. Costumes by
Andrea Varga. Photo by Richard Termine.

As “The Fatal Weakness” opens, a lace curtain rises to reveal a stunningly opulent room, designd by Vicki R. Davis, with mirrored walls and plush furniture.

The Mint Theater has once again rediscovered a lively and enjoyable jewel of a “forgotten” play.

For more information about “The Fatal Weakness,” please visit www.minttheater.org.

Posted in ambition, George Kelly, going to New York to be a writer, playwright, young man rebelling against his father

Finding his own path, "Philip Goes Forth"

Striking off on one’s on is a privilege and a rebellion in which the young often indulge, heading out to find their own success.

Philip (Bernardo Cubria) and his father, Mr. Eldridge (Cliff Bemis) have a fundamental disagreement as Mrs. Randolph (Christine Toy Johnson) looks on in Geroge Kelly’s “Philip Goes Forth” at the Mint extended through October 27. Photo by Rahav Segev.

“Philip Goes Forth,” at the Mint Theater in an extended run through October 27this about one young man’s contention with his father over his future .

Mrs. Randolph and Philip in the Mint production of “Philip Goes Forth.” Photo by Rahav Segev.

In this classic generational dispute, Philip Eldridge (Bernardo Cubria) is in a fine pique over his father’s (Cliff Bemis) high-handed dismissal of his ambitions. When Philip appeals to his aunt, Mrs. Randolph (Christine Toy Johnson)  she tells him, “You may be able to do wonders, Philip ,—I know nothing at all about it . And if I did know—that you had it in you to succeed even moderately at it ,…..—I should be the first to encourage you.” She is sympathetic, but worried, “.. I’ve read so much of the disappointments and heartbreak of writers; and I’m sure the majority of them must have ridden away wit h very high hopes.”

Mrs. Oliver (Carole Healey) pays Mrs. Randolph (Christine Toy Johnson) a visit. Photo by Rahav Segev.

George Kelly’s play gets off to a slow start, but as “Philip Goes Forth,” by the second act, it gains momentum and the power to captivate. Philip’s adventure takes him to New York City, where he feels an endeavor like his to write plays should prosper.

Mrs. Oliver (Carole Healey) and her daughter, Cynthia (Natalie Kuhn) both support Philip’s desires to become a playwright. Cynthia expresses her delight that he is planning to try his hand at writing. Mrs. Oliver says, “Why not?—I mean, after all, it ‘s your life. And if it’s unexpressed, remember there’ll be nobody to blame but yourself.”  And it is with that encouragement that Philip sallies off to Mrs. Ferris’ (Kathryn Kates) boarding house. There his college roommate, Tippy Shronk (Teddy Bergman) further fuels his aspirations. The other housemates gatherred in Mrs. Ferris’ drawing room include Miss Krail (Rachel Moulton) a delightfully absent-minded poetess and the tormented Haines (Brian Keith MacDonald.)

Philip (Bernardo Cubria) shares his dreams with Cynthia (Natalie Kuhn) in “Philip Goes Forth.” Photo by Rahav Segev.

Ironically, in New York, Philip finds great success at what you would call a “day job” where he labors in a novelty business. He is on the verge of a promotion when he receives visits from family and friends.

The direction, under Jerry Ruiz, seems a bit uneven, as Philip, Shronk and Mrs. Oliver are given free reign to be over the top, while the rest of the cast seems to take a more naturalistic approach. However, both Bernardo Cubria as Philip and Carole Healey as Mrs. Oliver find their place in our hearts as “Philip Goes Forth” proceeds into the later acts. Rachel Moulton is extremely fetching as the resident versifier, who “stress[es] the necessity of beauty unduly.”  Natalie Kuhn is sweet as Philip’s girlfriend; her enthusiasm for the romance of a writer’s life is comic and touching.

George Kelly, who was wildly popular in the late 1920’s, is seldom staged today.  Go forth, and enjoy this reclaimed little gem from a mostly forgotten master of stagecraft.

Visit http://minttheater.org/currentproduction.php for more information and tickets to the Mint’s production of “Philip Goes Forth.”