Mint Theater Stages Revival of George Kelly's THE FATAL WEAKNESS, Now thru 10/12
Mint Theater's next production will be The Fatal Weakness by George Kelly. Jesse Marchese directs a cast that features Cliff Bemis, Cynthia Darlow, Kristin Griffith, Sean Patrick Hopkins, Patricia Kilgarriff, and Victoria Mack. The Fatal Weakness will have scenic design Vicki R. Davis, costume design by Andrea Varga, lighting design by Christian DeAngelis, original music & sound design by Jane Shaw, and properties design by Joshua Yocom. Performances will begin tonight, August 19th and continue through October 12th. Opening Night is set for Monday September 15th (7pm) at Mint's home (311 West 43rd Street, just west of 8th Avenue).
Last fall Mint presented Kelly's comedy Philip Goes Forth, which Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout described as "a gem, mounted with the company's accustomed skill and resourcefulness." Teachout went on to write, "If George Kelly wrote two plays as good as Philip Goes Forth and The Show-Off, it's a safe bet that the rest of his oeuvre is worth a closer look," which the Mint now provides.
The Fatal Weakness tells the story of Ollie Espenshade, who, after 28 years of marriage is still an incurable romantic (her fatal weakness). Perhaps discovering that her husband is a lying cheat will cure her? George Kelly's last produced play is a smart comedy about romance, marriage and commitment. It opened in New York on November 19, 1946 in a production by the legendary Theatre Guild starring Ina Claire. Although Claire's triumphant return to Broadway after a five-year absence garnered much of the press attention, Kelly's play turned more than a few critics' heads: "One of Kelly's best. It reveals keen understanding of character-an evening of genuine quality." wrote Ward Morehouse in The New York Sun. Richard Watts Jr. of the New York Post called The Fatal Weakness "so fresh in its observations, three-dimensional in its characters and human in its humor that it emerges as the first important new comedy of the season." The play went on to be hailed "Best New Comedy" by George Jean Nathan's Honor List in Theatre Book of the Year, 1946-1947.
The Times' Brooks Atkinson could not reconcile the play's sober themes with its shrewd sense of humor, while The Nation's Joseph Wood Krutch recognized that this duality was the play's greatest strength. "Neither the action nor the author's commentary ever falls into any of the familiar grooves one is perpetually expecting it to find. Mr. Kelly rejects all the ready-made patterns which would immediately render his play comfortably classifiable and thus defeats all the easy expectations." John Chapman of the New York Daily News agreed with Krutch, calling The Fatal Weakness, "an evening of intelligent, smooth fun. It is a kind of fun that goes deeper than laughter, for any exposure of human frailty is not without its sobering side."
Admired for his character-driven satires and gimlet-eyed plays of modern manners, George Kelly (1887-1974) led a distinguished career in the New York theatre from the 1910s through the 1940s. Starting out as an actor and writer for vaudeville one-acts, Kelly rose to the height of acclaim in the early 1920s, with plays that he both wrote and directed. Kelly followed his breakout 1922 theatrical satire The Torch Bearers with 1924's The Show-Off (which Heywood Broun called "the best comedy which has yet been written by an American"), as well as his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1925 psychological drama Craig's Wife.
Although Kelly's commercial success declined steeply in the 1930s and 1940s, he produced some of his most striking and unconventional plays during these decades, including Philip Goes Forth (1931) and his two satiric dramas of marital infidelity: The Deep Mrs. Sykes (1945) and The Fatal Weakness (1946). Out of sync with sentimental postwar sensibilities, Kelly continued to write a number of unproduced plays as he shifted into semi-retirement with his longtime partner, William E. Weagly.
In recent years, George Kelly has made an emphatic re-entrance upon New York and regional stages, while his "sharply insightful" (The New York Sun) plays of middle-class domestic life have also invited critical rediscovery. Once "allowed to pass unremarked" (as Mary McCarthy noted in a 1947 essay) as a significant American playwright, Kelly returns to delight, provoke and surprise new audiences.
"The Mint does for forgotten drama what the Encores! series does for musicals, on far more modest means" (The New York Times). The Mint was awarded an OBIE for "combining the excitement of discovery with the richness of tradition," and a special Drama Desk Award for "unearthing, presenting and preserving forgotten plays of merit." Ben Brantley, in The New York Times Arts & Leisure hailed the Mint as the "resurrectionist extraordinaire of forgotten plays."
Performances will be Tuesday through Thursday at 7 PM, Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM, and Sunday at 2 PM. Special added Wednesday Matinee on September 10th at 2pm. PLEASE NOTE: There will be no performances on Tuesday evenings September 9th or 16th.
Tickets are $55 with some half-price tickets (CheapTix) and Premium Seats ($65) available for most performances. Performances take place on the Third Floor of 311 West 43rd Street.Tickets are available by calling the Mint box office toll-free at 866-811-4111 or go to www.minttheater.org where you can also see video, photos, and more!