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Mint Theater Company Revives "A Day by the Sea" at the Beckett Theatre
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Mint Theater Company Revives "A Day by the Sea" at the Beckett Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights
Ariston Flowers
110 West 17th Street,
NY, NY 10011
Fax: 212.242.5479
Ariston Floral Boutique
425 Lexington Avenue (44th St.)
NY, NY 10017
Fax: 212.867.0607

Mint Theater Company
Jonathan Bank, Producing Artistic Director
Jen Soloway, Managing Director

A Day by the Sea
(Web Page)

By N.C. Hunter
Directed by Austin Pendleton

At the
Beckett Theatre
(Theatre Row Website)
410 West 42nd Street

Curzon Dobell, Julian Elfer, Katie Firth, Philip Goodwin
Sean Gormley, Polly McKie, Kylie McVey
George Morfogen, Athan Sporek, Jill Tanner

Sets: Charles Morgan
Costumes: Martha Hally
Lights: Xavier Pierce
Sound and Music: Jane Shaw
Props: Joshua Yocom
Dialects & Dramaturgy: Amy Stoller
Wig & Hair Design: Robert-Charles Vallance
Press Rep: David Gersten & Associates
Production Stage Manager: Catherine Bloch
Illustration: Stafano Imbert
Graphics: Hey Jude Design, Inc.
Casting: Judy Bowman
Advertising & Marketing: The Pekoe Group

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 21, 2016 Matinee

On a hot Sunday in August, there’s nothing like a cool theater and a sophisticated, British, 1950’s play. N. C. Hunter’s 1953, A Day by the Sea, which last appeared in New York in 1955 at the ANTA Theatre (now the August Wilson, on West 52nd Street), includes three languorous acts, in a warm May setting in a garden in Dorset, England, and on the beach of the English Channel coast. Each character is so finely drawn in the Mint Theater Company’s rare revival, directed by Austin Pendleton, that, even though this is a play heavy on contemplation and philosophy, low on action or shifting events, these mesmerizing characters shine from within with repressed emotionality and neediness, while enveloped in pragmatic status quo. At the end of the three-hour dramatization, I could have stayed for an immediate replay. The audience becomes bound with the repressed, yet magnetic personas, and their fates become acutely intriguing. The audience will experience seasoned theatrical pros and new faces, and, for this writer, it was good seeing Curzon Dobell (reviewed in A Happy End) and George Morfogen (reviewed in Golden Age, A Man for All Seasons, and The Lonely Way). Mr. Pendleton shone a light on the hidden depths of each character’s persona and raison d’être, giving meaning to nuanced gestures and glances.

Julian Anson (Julian Elfer), the English foreign diplomat assigned to Paris, in his early forties, is suddenly re-assigned to London by his boss, Humphrey Caldwell (Sean Gormley), who arrives for the Act II beach picnic. Julian, who’s plagued with the malaise of work-obsession, is unpopular in his, until now, comfortable office scene. Julian’s mother, the loquacious, all-knowing Laura Anson (Jill Tanner), runs her home with precisely timed organization, caring for what appears to be her brother-in-law, David Anson (the seasoned George Morfogen), who spends much of his time (all leisure), napping or being walked or read to. David’s in-house “doctor”, Doctor Farley (Philip Goodwin), who provides daily elixirs (probably gin) in small glasses, likes glasses of gin, himself, and hides his empty bottles behind a chest. Laura, head of household, has collected David and the doctor into her home as companions, as her son has been abroad. A lady from the family’s history has been invited to join the gathering, named Frances Farrar (Katie Firth), who survived the deaths of two husbands, each unique unto itself, and she arrives with two children, Elinor Eddison (Kylie McVey) and Toby Eddison (Athan Sporek), whose playful noise disturbs the curmudgeonly David to no end. Julian’s accountant, William Gregson (Curzon Dobell), a practical guy, emanates numerical numbness and realism, expanding the communal sense of deliberate alienation.

The one character that publicly bleeds from the heart is the children’s governess, Miss Mathieson (Polly McKie), who’s drawn to the rootless, oft-inebriated Doctor Farley. She nonsensically begs for his hand in marriage, couched in her offer of making him “a home”, and his rejection lends little credence to his body language, that belies his interest in the widow, Frances. Yet, Julian, who had climbed these hills and walked this beach with the young Frances, long ago, back in the day, beseeches her to make him a home, as well. This is not a play of easy resolutions, but rather of naturalistic isolation, the preservation of the self. For hours on end, after exiting The Beckett Theatre, the viewer will be caught up in the play’s unresolved conflicts and the characters’ smooth adaptations. Each actor is to be praised for fine-tuning the mannered expressiveness of feelings, needs, and opinions. Here, less is more. Charles Morgan’s sets, of the garden and beach scene include fine wrought iron furniture, wicker picnic baskets, checkered cloths, and two (one for each scene) large, framed paintings that illustrate (by Stefano Imbert) an expansive garden or a rocky, coastal beach. In fact, Julian’s finest moment occurred offstage, on one of the coastal cliffs, as he valiantly rescued a child’s kite. But, his motive, like so many in the play, did not reach its goal. Martha Halley’s costumes, especially Laura’s large straw hat and loose shirts, and the men’s early 1950’s, retro suits, caught the eye. Lighting, sound, props, and wigs were perfectly in sync. Kudos to Mint Theater Company, and kudos to Austin Pendleton for this lovely summer respite.

Katie Firth, Julian Elfer, Jill Tanner, Curzon Dobell
in the Mint Theater Company's "A Day by the Sea"
Courtesy of Richard Termine

George Morfogen and Philip Goodwin
in the Mint Theater Company's "A Day by the Sea"
Courtesy of Richard Termine

Julian Elfer, Katie Firth, Philip Goodwin, Polly McKie
in the Mint Theater Company's "A Day by the Sea"
Courtesy of Richard Termine

Julian Elfer and Jill Tanner
in the Mint Theater Company's "A Day by the Sea"
Courtesy of Richard Termine

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