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The New Morality

September 1, 2015
At The Mint-Theatre:

Harold Chapin’s THE NEW MORALITY [****]

Hysterics on a Houseboat: Overwrought & Undervalued, Betty Jones Uses Very Bad Language!

Down at the Mint-Theatre, it is the Hottest-Summer-Ever, at least for Elitist-Houseboat-Dwellers on the River-Thames in 1911.

Beautiful & Petulant Betty Jones—her High-Strung-Nerves worn Raw by her Handsome-Husband’s Excessive-Attentions to the Wife of another Houseboat-Gentleman—has just unleashed a most Unladylike-Tirade, using Bad-Language!

What’s Worse, she Refuses-to-Apologize, neither to the Unseen-Wife nor to her Flustered-Husband, who threatens a Legal-Action for Libel.

Betty’s Brother, a King’s-Counsel, warns her that she could go to Prison for her Offense, unless she shows Appropriate-Contrition—which she absolutely Refuses-to-Do.

Well! You can just imagine the Fuss-&-Feathers this causes for all the other Rich-Idle-Houseboat-Dwellers! They are also Unseen, but we do get to hear about them.

For Contemporary-Moderns, this Edwardian-New-Morality—with Angry-Women speaking-out—may seem only a Tempest-in-a-Teapot…

Yes, there’s Tea & a Teapot, not to overlook Delicate-Sandwiches!

As usual at the Mint, the Period-Production-Values are Archivally-Accurate: Betty’s Below-Deck-Bedroom & the Open-Deck-Dining-Area are attractively evoked.

Carisa Kelly has designed the Spiffy-Costumes, with Boat-Scenes by Steven Kemp.

Also, as usual at the Mint, the Performances are Spot-On!

Brenda Meany is both Lovely & very Mean as Betty, with Michael Frederic as her Colonel-Husband, Ivor, the very Model of a Brit-Officer in Mufti.

It is made Clear that Betty is not acting Badly because she’s a Suffragette.

No, Betty is just having a Bad-Time, at a time when Aristocratic-Ladies were supposed to know How-to-Behave in Polite-Society.

Psychotic & Hysteric-Incidents were not then Understood.

Jonathan Bank has staged his Excellent-Cast with a Sly-Hand, keeping the various Thames-Dwellng-Types in a Delicate-Comedic-Balance.

Not only has Bank revived Chapin’s New Morality, he has also programmed a Saturday/Sunday-Series of Talks about Related-Issues.

On Sunday, 6 September, Leslie Day discussed Life on a Houseboat.

Day is a Naturalist & lives on the 76th-Street Boat-Basin, so she Knows-Whereof-She-Speaks.

One thing you can always Bank-On at the Mint: Forgotten or Neglected Plays from the Past will be Exhumed with Loving-Care.

Why have you never heard of New Morality Playwright Harold Chapin before?

Sad to Say, he died in the Great-War in 1915—the War-to-End-All-Wars—before his Social-Drama could be staged.

So the Mint-Revival is celebrating the Centenary of Harold Chapin’s Battlefield-Demise.

Those who knew him well were left to Wonder what he might have Written, had he Survived.

Marie Tempest—Reigning-Queen of the London-Stage before World-War-I—was a Great-Admirer of Chapin & his Talent.

Tempest—seldom seen in a Teapot, but often in a Stage-Tempest—had recently commissioned the noted American-Novelist, Edith Wharton, to craft a drama for her, based on Sudermann’s Es Lebe Das Leben, which Wharton translated as The Joy of Living.

Perhaps Jonathan Bank might like to take a look at Wharton’s Joy, as, some time ago, he handsomely staged Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, which had never been published.

I mention this because I discovered the Original Detroit & Manhattan Play-Scripts, publishing them as The Play of the House of Mirth

Copyright 2015 Glenn M. Loney

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