NEW YORK—The Mint Theater, whose mission is to revive old, neglected plays, has come up with another gem in discovering a series of plays by Irish playwright Teresa Deevy. Now playing under the astute direction of artistic director Jonathan Bank is “Temporal Powers,” dealing with a poverty-stricken couple who’ve recently been evicted from their home in a poor area of the Irish countryside.
Finding refuge in an abandoned and decrepit building (designed in a mix of reality and fantasy by Vicki R. Davis), husband Michael (Aidan Redmond) unexpectedly finds an envelope filled with a large sum of money. This sets in motion the deep-seated conflict between Mick and wife Min (Rosie Benton).
To Min, the discovery is the answer to their dreams. Mick has never provided enough for her, and she is miserable because of it. He, on the other hand, takes the moralistic high road; he cannot take what is not rightly his and plans to turn the money over to the parish priest, Father O’Brien (Robertson Carricart).
A series of neighbors and relatives pay the couple a visit, each newcomer adding information and opinions to the situation, which Mick and Min are careful not to disclose fully. It soon comes out that the money has been stolen. In fact, the thief is one of their visitors.
These colorful characters include the delightful young Lizzie Brennan (Wrenn Schmidt), who has set her eye firmly on the conservative, noncommittal Moses Barron (Eli James). This couple is often intruded upon by Moses’s mother, the bombastic Daisy Barron (Fiana Toibin), who never fails to ostentatiously make known her feelings on just about any subject.
Ned Cooney (Con Horgan), who has recently been released from prison for an unnamed crime, is among the visitors, and in spite of the presence of his wife Maggie (Bairbre Dowling), approaches Min rather seductively. Businessman Jim Slattery (Paul Carlin) has later dealings with Mick, while the latter must decide what road he is to take in life.
It’s been said that money is the root of all evil, and that seems to hold true in this play, throwing into vivid relief the conflict between profiting from an unearned windfall, or doing the right thing and relinquishing the find. Certainly Michael and Min’s lives are torn apart by the situation.
As the central couple, Rosie Benton and Aidan Redmond are superb. Stage directions note that Min is “wearing a shawl with distinctive grace,” and Benton more than meets that criterion as well as rising to the emotional needs of the character. Redmond powerfully fulfills his role, conveying decency and an attractive masculinity.
The entire cast is superior, and director Bank is to be congratulated for his subtle and detailed meshing of all the elements of the production.Although playwright Deevy’s plays were enthusiastically produced by Dublin’s Abbey Theatre early in the 20th century, they have been largely forgotten. However, the Mint’s production last year of her “Wife to James Whelan” has hopefully re-established her position. Next year, a production of another Deevy play, “Katie Roche,” is on the Mint’s agenda.
311 West 43rd Street
Tickets: 212-315-0231 or www.minttheater.org
Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (2 intermissions)
Closes: Oct. 2
Diana Barth writes and publishes “New Millennium,” an arts newsletter. For information: firstname.lastname@example.org.