It’s always delightful to attend the Mint Theater Company revivals as they unearth some of Ireland’s classics. In this case, Producing Artistic Director Jonathan Bank has outdone himself in this comedy-drama written by Teresa Deevy who might be considered an early women’s liber. Following on the heels of two other successfully received Deevy productions, “Temporal Powers” and “Wife to James Whelan,” this play tells the story of Katie Roche (Wrenn Schmidt), a young servant girl, eager to sow her wild oats, yet clever enough to contain her desires when faced with choices.
Katie is reminiscent of Eliza Doolittle – a bit rough around the edges and in need of training so that she can blossom. She lives with the very obedient Amelia Gregg (Margaret Daly) in a cottage (nicely designed by Vicki R. Davis) in Lower Ballycar, Ireland outside of Dublin. Amelia’s emotionally restricted and uptight brother Stanislaus (Patrick Fitzgerald), an architect in Dublin, provides the financial support and visits on occasion. He has always had an eye for Katie, whose dubious family history provides fodder for gossip. Amelia’s most memorable line - - “Now, wouldn’t that be nice.”
When Stan arrives in Act I, he very soon tells Katie he would like to marry her although he is a good deal older. Katie, however, has been fond of Michael Maguire (Jon Fletcher), someone much closer to her own age, who is hoping to establish himself first before asking Katie to marry him. Stan lets Katie know she must learn to behave in a more subdued manner, and contain her feistiness and youthful spontaneity. She seems especially prone to tantrums. Although she’s not quite happy with all this, she cleverly sees the advantages of being Mrs. Gregg. Better to marry than enter a convent!
Katie very much misses the wildness of her youthful ways and desires, especially when Michael comes a-calling which soon causes a strain on her marriage to Stan, as he angrily decides to leave for a month to stay in Dublin. His other sister, Margaret Drybone (perfect name for this gossipy, disapproving woman, played by Flana Toibin) doesn’t think much of the marriage or of Katie’s behavior as she, herself, is an obedient wife. Katie, too, is fed up having the family around interfering in her life.
In and out is Reuben (Jamie Jackson), a travelling spiritual healer who visits the sick to bring solace, and who also vehemently disapproves of Katie’s behavior resorting to hitting her with his walking stick. But there’s more to this story.
There’s also a love story going on between Amelia and someone she deeply cared for in her youth, Frank Lawlor (John O’Creagh) whose interest has been renewed via Stan’s suggestion, the scene of his visit charming and humorous, as they play delightfully in courtship.
As Katie perceives her new position of authority, she becomes more decisive by redecorating the cottage with religious artifacts until Stan returns disapproving. As he sees her flaunting her continuing relationship with Michael, Stan decides to put an end to it permanently by ordering her to pack and leave with him to live in Dublin. She cries, she pouts but realizes that being Mrs. Gregg is the only way out.
Adding to the delightful cast is Michael’s friend Jo Mahony (David Freidlander). Wrenn Schmidt unearths all aspects of Katie’s free spirit and eventual decision to give up that freedom for security and stature. Jon Fletcher is charismatic and Patrick Fitzgerald doesn’t give much away as the restrained precise Stan.
The period costumes are by Martha Holly, lighting by Nicole Pearce.
Katie Roche continues at the Mint Theater thru March 31st. www.minttheater.org 866-811-4111