By George Kelly; Directed by Jesse Marchese
Produced by Mint Theater Company
Off Broadway, Play Revival
Runs through 10.26.14
Mint Theater, 311 West 43rd Street
by Geri Silver on 9.19.14
Cynthia Darlow and Kristin Griffith in The Fatal Weakness. Photo by Richard Termine.
BOTTOM LINE: The Mint's revival of this 1946 comedy stands the test of time and delivers a highly entertaining critique of romance and marriage.
In the heart of Midtown, just minutes away from Broadway’s biggest blockbusters, the Mint Theater provides an intimate haven to celebrate theatre’s legacy through their mission to unearth "worthy but neglected plays" from the past. The Fatal Weakness, George Kelly’s 1946 comedy running now through October 12th, proves itself perfectly worthy of this top-notch revival that retains its entertainment value, and even more impressively, its relevance and insight.
The play begins as middle-aged housewife Ollie Espenshade (Kristin Griffith) reveals to her friend Mabel (Cynthia Darlow) the contents of an anonymous letter she received, telling of her husband's secret affair with another woman. Confused and heartbroken, Ollie decides to take this rumor seriously and Mabel, being the good friend and busybody that she is, employs a friend to follow Mr. Espenshade (Cliff Bemis) for the afternoon to track his whereabouts. After the women craft their investigation plan, Ollie receives a visit from her daughter Penny (Victoria Mack), a defiantly liberal-minded young woman who is having marital troubles of her own after sharing her views on marriage ("I refuse to take marriage seriously—I mean, as a permanent relationship in my life,") in a recent conversation-turned-argument with her husband Vernon (Sean Patrick Hopkins). Many relationships are tested as the two marriages are pushed to their limits, and the mother and daughter find themselves forced to re-think each of their strongly held beliefs.
Directed by Jesse Marchese, The Fatal Weakness is lighthearted without losing its substance. The cast, which also includes the charming Patricia Kilgarriff as the Espenshade's obedient yet quirky maid, deftly portrays Kelly's carefully etched characters to maximize comedic potential without reducing anyone to caricature or stereotype. There are no villains in The Fatal Weakness, and the strength in the play lies in its ability to authentically and humorously communicate the inherent complexities and anomalies of love, romance, and marriage, all of which have, for better or for worse, remained perfectly intact through 2014.
After two and a half hours, the end of the play feels somewhat unsatisfying as a conclusion, but the energy and quality of the production never dwindles. The time period is beautifully demonstrated in Vicki R. Davis' set, and the contrast between the 1940s piece and the glaringly relevant themes and conflicts make for a worthwhile evening that both heralds the past and offers insight on the present.
(The Fatal Weakness plays at the Mint Theater, 311 West 43rd Street, through October 26th, 2014. Performances are Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7PM; Fridays at 8PM, and Saturdays at 2PM and 8PM; with a Wednesday matinee on October 15 at 2PM. Tickets are $27.50-$65 and are available at ovationtix.com or by calling 866-811-4111. For more information visit minttheater.org.)