BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
"TEMPORAL POWERS" by Teresa Deevy.
Directed by Jonathan Bank.
Mint Theatre, 311 W. 43 St., NYC from Aug. 3 - Oct. 9, 2011.
Tues. - Thurs, 7 PM; Fri. - Sat. 8 PM; Sat. - Sun., 2 PM.
Tickets and information: $55 at 212-315-0231 or http://www.minttheater.org.
Poverty can more dangerous to a marriage than adultery, abuse or absence. Teresa Deevy’s " Temporal Powers," now completing an extended run at the Mint Theatre, is a study of hardship, love, community, and the Irish soul. Deevy, once a welcome playwright at the famed Abbey Theatre in Dublin, fell into oblivion during her lifetime. She probably never imagined that anyone -- like director Jonathan Bank or Mint Theatre audiences -- would rediscover and champion her work half a century after her death.
The play opens as the Donovans, an attractive young couple, take up residence in a long abandoned house. Min (Rosie Benton) is enraged that Michael (Aidan Redmond), a farmer, worked himself to the bone yet still lost the farm. He should have tried something different to keep a roof over their heads, she laments. She regrets accepting his proposal and her luck. He is silent. The marital spat take a new turn when he discovers a hidden cache of cash. He’s for returning it – or at least turning it over to the priest (Robertson Carricart); she mocks his honesty. Fate, she believes, has offered them a second chance and he’s too much the coward to accept.
Michael’s ethical stand, which at first seems punctilious, becomes a beacon as friends and family enter the ruin to comfort the couple, swap stories, and offer advice. Although the conversation rambles, money is the central (although sometimes unnamed) problem for everyone. Ned Cooney (Con Horgan), Michael’s brother-in-law, has given up the good fight; he is wanted for the theft of the cash that Michael found. Michael’s sister (Bairbre Dowling) is rearing half a dozen children on her own. Her two older have gone to America and are sending back cash for the other children to follow. Moses Barron (Eli James), Michael’s young friend, lives under the thumb of his mother (Fiana Toibin), who provides for him. Lizzie Brennan (Wrenn Schmidt), the young woman who loves him, learns the Donovans’ secret and turns Michael in for the reward, hoping it will be enough for her and Moses to begin a new life. Moses, repulsed, rejects her. There seems no way out for anyone, and love is a luxury no one can afford.
While Michael hides the money and silently debates the value of his integrity against his longing to please his wife, Min determines to betray her husband and act in league with Ned Cooney, who is much distressed and prone to violence. While Michael is sleeping, she promises to grant Ned access to the ruin, but her actions are foiled. Eventually, the police arrive and Michael is arrested for aiding and abetting. As in the first Deevy play that the Mint produced, "The Wife to James Whelan," the law holds a place of honor, and malfeasance is severely punished, even when the culprit is sympathetic.
The play does not end with the arrest. Justice is served. In the closing moments, Deevy transforms the play from a charming melodrama to a near tragedy, and Deevy once again proves her dramatic strength and insight into the human condition. Michael is both saved and undone. He has lost all that he held dear and must make a new life.
Both the play and the production, directed by Jonathan Bank, are uneven, but that is part of the charm of the Mint Theatre. It feels like theatre in progress, playwrights struggling to share a vision and actors testing their strength. And sometimes the actors are surprisingly precise and moving, like Aidan Redmond who plays Michael and breaks your heart a little.
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