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Adair, Baird & More Lead Mint Theater's What the Public Wants, Opens 2/7/11

The Drama Desk and OBIE Award-winning Mint Theater Company today announced the cast for Arnold Bennett's comedy, What the Public Wants, beginning January 13th through March 13th at the Mint's home in the heart of the theater district, at 311 West 43rd Street. Opening Night will be February 7th.

Matthew Arbour directs a cast that features Ellen Adair, Mary Baird, Rob Breckenridge, Birgit Huppuch, Laurie Kennedy, Jeremy Lawrence, Douglas Rees, and Marc Vietor. What the Public Wants will have set design by Roger Hanna, costume design by Erin Murphy, lighting design by Marcus Doshi, and sound design by Daniel Kluger.

What The Public Wants is Arnold Bennett's sly satire on tabloid journalism - a lively look at life behind the headlines and proof that the more things change the more they stay the same. This clever 1909 comedy charts the efforts of media mogul Sir Charles Worgan to boost circulation as well as his social standing. "One of the best comedies of our time," wrote Max Beerbohm of the play's London premiere in The Saturday Review. "No one but Bernard Shaw sends up ideas as skyrockets more successfully than Mr. Bennett," wrote the Chicago Evening Post of the play's American debut in 1913.

Bennett's prescient comedy has been revived numerous times in England; each time critics have commented on how the play never shows its age. "The thing that impresses one most about What The Public Wants is its curious up-to-dateness... Indeed, its purpose is all the more urgent now, since the ills of the Press, which the play diagnoses so well, have grown alarmingly, especially in the last few years," wrote The Stage. "The satire is as topical, the wit as keen, and the humor as penetrating." 100 years after it was written, Bennett's savage wit still hits the target.

Loosely inspired by the rise of Lord Northcliffe, founder of Britain's leading tabloid, The Daily Mail, What The Public Wants was first produced by The Stage Society in London in March 1909. "A brilliantly illuminating satire," declared The London Times, and the play was promptly transferred to the West End where it was hailed as "a very amusing and often very witty farce." What The Public Wants proved so popular it was published in three different editions between 1909 and 1911.

What The Public Wants was first seen in the U.S. in 1913, when the Manchester Repertory Company toured Boston and Chicago. The Boston Globe described the play as a "delightfully clever satire, often of scintillating brilliancy, thoroughly interesting and constantly entertaining," while the Chicago Tribune praised Bennett's play as "luminous and watchful, a gem." In 1922, The Theatre Guild produced the New York premiere.

There was a time, in the first quarter of the last century when Arnold Bennett was one of the world's most famous and successful authors. When he was dying, the streets beneath his window were laid with straw to deaden the noise-Bennett was the last person in London to be accorded this honor. When he died on March 27, 1931, it was front-page news in The New York Times. Only 64, he was still "in the full tide of his prodigious literary output, which had brought him more readers and more riches than any other British author." "More riches" turned out to be literally true: The Times later reported that Bennett "disposed of what is expected to rank as the largest literary fortune in history" ($500,000). Tributes came pouring in from all over the world. Today, even his most famous work: The Old Wives Tale, Clayhanger, and These Twain have been forgotten.

Mint Theater Company, "that truffle hound of half-buried treasures from the past" (Village Voice), has a celebrated reputation for re-discovering worthy but neglected gems and has brought new vitality to timeless but timely plays since 1992. The Mint was awarded an OBIE for "combining the excitement of discovery with the richness of tradition." Mint was awarded a special Drama Desk Award for "Unearthing, presenting and preserving forgotten plays of merit."

Following What the Public Wants will be A Little Journey by Rachel Crothers, directed by Jackson Gay (May 5 to July 3, 2011), a nominee for the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama and not produced anywhere since 1918. Crothers' legacy was largely forgotten until the Mint revived Susan and God in 2006. "A voice that remains fresh," lauded The New York Times, while Terry Teachout wrote in the Wall Street Journal: "It is a major event, a pitch perfect production of a 69-year-old play whose subject matter is so modern in flavor that it could have been written last week." In July 2011, as promised, Mint will return to the work of Teresa Deevy (Wife to James Whelan) with the American Premiere of Temporal Powers.

Performances for What the Public Wants will be Tuesday through Thursday at 7 PM, Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM, and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets are $55. All performances will take place on the Third Floor of 311 West 43rd Street. Tickets are available by calling the Mint box office at 212/315-0231 or go to www.minttheater.org

And, introducing a new inexpensive way to discover Mint productions - CHEAP TIX: Everyone appreciates a bargain, especially these days. Mint Theater Company is now offering a limited number of seats for every performance at half-price ($27.50).


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