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Mint Theater Company Presents "Women Without Men" at New York City Center Stage II
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Mint Theater Company Presents "Women Without Men" at New York City Center Stage II

- Backstage with the Playwrights

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Mint Theater Company
Jonathan Bank, Producing Artistic Director


Women Without Men
(Women Without Men Website)

By Hazel Ellis
Directed by Jenn Thompson

New York City Center Stage II
West 55th Street, Btw. 6th and 7th Avenues

Mary Bacon, Joyce Cohen, Shannon Harrington
Kate Middleton, Aedin Moloney, Alexa Shae Niziak
Kellie Overbey, Dee Pelletier, Beatrice Tulchin
Emily Walton, Amelia White

Sets: Vicki R. Davis
Costumes: Martha Hally
Lights: Traci Klainer Polimeni
Sound and Arrangements: Jane Shaw
Wigs and Hair Design: Robert-Charles Vallance
Props: Joshua Yocom
Dialects & Dramaturgy: Amy Stoller
Production Manager: Chris Batstone
Casting: Judy Bowman
Production Stage Manager: Kathy Snyder
Advertising & Marketing: The Pekoe Group
Press Representative: David Gersten & Associates

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 18, 2016

Set in the teachers’ sitting room of Malyn Park, a private, Protestant girls’ boarding school, adjacent to the sea in Ireland, a half-dozen teachers and staff reveal repressed, perceived slights, petty annoyances, and hatched, vengeful plots for peer status and career security. It’s 1937, fall term, and one or more of the all-female staff meander in, then soon storm out of the stifling close quarters, with mild and not so mild confrontations bubbling just at the surface of impulse control. Jonathan Bank, Mint Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director, has revived this rare, 1938 Hazel Ellis play, never before seen since its original production. The protagonist in this thought-provoking and engaging work, Miss Jean Wade (Emily Walton), is the newest member of the teaching staff, an ingénue and optimist, who offers a warm hand to her new colleagues, in the face of icy inhibitions. These “women without men” are immediately seething with palpable resentment on learning that Miss Wade is engaged to be married and filled with youthful sexuality. Ms. Walton’s character meets her stiffest resistance from Miss Connor (Kellie Overbey), who has sacrificed her years and earnings to the care of family, and who no longer knows moments of joy or self-indulgence.

What Miss Connor possesses, rather, is a book she has been painstakingly writing, the papers of which she keeps in a small portable, wooden box, also her writing surface. The play’s drama centers on a mystery related to Miss Connor’s writing, although the everyday dramas are also of consequence. One involves an innocent class play, organized by the altruistic, dedicated Miss Wade, as she tries to rehearse the show in the teachers’ room, to the shock and anger of her co-teachers. Another involves native French teacher, Mademoiselle Vernier’s (Dee Pelletier) knitting bag, also abruptly banished from the room, by territorial selfishness. Miss Marjorie Strong (Mary Bacon) becomes Miss Wade’s confidante, on at least a superficial level, and Miss Ruby Ridgeway (Kate Middleton) is seasoned to her colleagues’ jealousies, especially of the students’ favoritism. Most of the women have to share a bedroom, with only one hot bath allowed per week. Days off and perks are sadly minimal, and the exhausted and lonely school mistresses have only communal chatter for comfort. Not one man is cast in this play, underscoring the “schoolmarm” – “spinster” quality of existence, especially during the hard economy of late 1930’s Ireland.

Each actor, including the three girls performing the roles of Miss Wade’s students, is uniquely drawn and showcased, according to her individual story, within this poignant tale. In a minor, but significant role, Matron, also called Mrs. Hubbert (Amelia White), exudes the confidence and invincibility that her staff lacks and sorely desires. Vicki R. Davis’ set, with furniture, china, lamps, and rug you’d find in a city thrift shop, draws you right into the room, especially in this intimate theater. In fact, each play I’ve seen in Stage II at City Center has been mesmerizing, thanks to the planned intimacy of audience to stage. Martha Hally’s dresses and shoes seem right out of antique clothing stores. Traci Klainer Polimeni’s lighting is suitably akin to the lamplights seen in the sitting room, which are often dimmed to save on electricity. Jane Shaw’s sound keeps dialogue clear, and the wigs and hair design by Robert-Charles Vallance are key to the period. Jenn Thompson has directed to bring out the subtle yearnings and underlying agonies. Kudos to Hazel Ellis, an unearthed playwright.

Kate Middleton, Emily Walton, Amelia White,
Kellie Overbey, and Mary Bacon
in "WOMEN WITHOUT MEN" by Hazel Ellis
Courtesy of Richard Termine

Emily Walton and Kellie Overbey
in "WOMEN WITHOUT MEN" by Hazel Ellis
Courtesy of Richard Termine

Dee Pelletier
in "WOMEN WITHOUT MEN" by Hazel Ellis
Courtesy of Richard Termine

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at