Mint Theater's MARY BROOME Extends Through 10/21
Featured in the cast, directed by Mr. Bank, are Rod Brogan, Janie Brookshire, Katie Fabel, Kristin Griffith, Roderick Hill, Julie Jesneck, Patricia Kilgarriff, Graeme Malcolm, Douglas Rees, Erica Swindell, and Jill Tanner. Mary Broome has set design by Roger Hanna, costume design by Martha Hally, lighting design by Nicole Pearce, sound design by Jane Shaw, and prop design by Joshua Yocum.
Monkhouse’s biting comedy tells the story of a household turned upside down by an upstairs/downstairs liaison. Mary, the housemaid, is pregnant by Leonard, the wayward son—and everyone is eager to do the right thing—if only they knew what that was.
Mary Broome premiered in 1911 at Manchester’s Gaiety Theatre and quickly moved to London. The Guardian called it “A remarkable piece of work;” in “the company of masterpieces in comedy.” The Observer declared its style akin to “Shaw and Hankin, with a dash of Granville Barker.” Its only New York production was in 1919 at The Neighborhood Playhouse on Grand St. The Globe hailed it as “One of the cleverest plays in town…extraordinarily good entertainment…a sort of Spanish bull fight of the intellect. Town Topics was even more enthusiastic, calling it a play “of the finest intelligence—a play for the civilized mind that is at one amusing and dramatic. Mr. Monkhouse has taken a burning subject of modern life—the strange, intricate question of the family… and he has handled this matter with a touch that is never frivolous but always light, with gaiety, incisive humor, keen precision and truth of characterization… Superbly real, intelligent and sober.”
In 1958, Granada Television Network broadcast Mary Broome to commemorate the Gaiety’s 50th anniversary. The London Times wrote “the play startlingly foreshadows the realist drama of our own time,” calling Leonard Timbrell a “blood brother” to Jimmy Porter, the original Angry Young Man, a sentiment echoed by The Stage, which writes that the play “reminds us that today’s bantering, egotistical, arty-crafty, frustrated angry young man has already been on our stage for nearly 50 years.” Make that 100 years! Mary Broome remains a razor sharp comment on the decadence of modern society.
Allan Monkhouse (1858-1936) was a dramatist, novelist, and critic known for his piquant portrayal of middle class life in northern England. He startled audiences with complex characters who pierced societal niceties as they grappled with the contradictions of a rapidly changing world. Monkhouse began writing plays at the encouragement of director and philanthropist Annie Horniman who’d moved to Manchester to rejuvenate the Gaiety Theatre. (Horniman supported Dublin’s Abbey Theatre during its early years). Horniman transformed the Gaiety into England’s first regional repertory and the home of the “Manchester School,” a vigorous new style of writing. Manchester School plays portrayed modern life with unprecedented frankness, exploring the tumult of social change with both wit and humor. Monkhouse’s first major theatrical success was Mary Broome. The play opened at the Gaiety in 1911 to strong reviews and transferred to London in 1912. While some were troubled by the play — The Observer critic called character Leonard Timbrell “an offensive little worm” — it enjoyed a healthy run. The fuss over Mary Broome paled in comparison to the uproar over Monkhouse’s 1924 drama The Conquering Hero, a bracing examination of objection to World War I and the war’s psychological aftermath. Newspapers were flooded with letters protesting the play. It eventually became one of Monkhouse’s most popular works.