Off-Broadway Recommendation: CHAINS (Mint Theater)

Post image for Off-Broadway Recommendation: CHAINS (Mint Theater)

by Gregory Bernard on June 8, 2022

in Theater-New York

Director Jenn Thompson Creates a Rare Behind the Scenes Look at
Mint Theater’s American Premiere of CHAINS by Elizabeth Baker.
Performances on now at Theatre Row.

 

Without a doubt one of the classiest theater companies in New York, the Mint returns with an all-new live production. To miss it would be folly. I can’t recommend this company enough. How classy is it? Take a look at Director Jenn Thompson’s rare behind-the-scenes photo gallery of Mint Theater’s American Premiere of Chains by Elizabeth Baker. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Chains
Mint Theater at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street)
Tues-Sat at 7:30; Wed, Sat & Sun at 2
performances on now | opening night set for June 23, 2022
ends on July 23, 2022
for tickets, call 212.714.2442 x45 (Mon-Sun 12-5pm), or visit Theatre Row Box Office

all photos by JENN THOMPSON


Jeremy Beck in a scene from CHAINS.

“It is a tale that grips you from the first moment to the last. Every line of it throbs with a real humanity, and the characters that develop from it are living things…CHAINS is one of the GREATEST PLAYS that has been produced in this country for many a long day, and Suffragists will be delighted to note that it has been written by—a woman.” — The Bystander


Laakan McHardy & Elisabeth S. Rodgers in a scene from CHAINS.

Thompson directs a company that includes Jeremy Beck, Kyle Cameron, Anthony Cochrane, Christopher Gerson, Olivia Gilliatt, Jeff Gurner, Laakan McHardy, Andrea Morales, Ned Noyes, Brian Owen, Elisabeth S. Rodgers, Claire Saunders, Peterson Townsend, Amelia White, and Avery Whitted.


Brian Owen in a scene from CHAINS.

Chains is the second offering in Mint’s series “Meet Miss Baker,” Mint’s latest effort in its ongoing commitment to create new life for neglected women playwrights. From Pulitzer-Prize winning plays by Zona Gale and Susan Glaspell, to forgotten works by Teresa Deevy, Rachel Crothers, Cicely Hamilton, Githa Sowerby, Hazel Ellis, Maurine Dallas Watkins, Lillian Hellman, Rose Franken and Dawn Powell, Mint has long been a champion of neglected plays by women.


Jeff Gurner & Elisabeth S. Rodgers in a scene from CHAINS.

Elizabeth Baker was literally an overnight success in 1909. She went from “obscure stenographer making five dollars a week” to “one of the most widely discussed playwrights in London” when her first play, CHAINS, had a one-performance “try-out” at the Royal Court in London in 1909. The Times and The Globe both called CHAINS “remarkable.” The next year, Baker’s drama was running in repertory with the plays of Galsworthy, Barrie, Granville Barker and Shaw, and was hailed as “the most brilliant and the deepest problem play by a modern British writer since Major Barbara.” (The New Age)


Claire Saunders and Anthony Cochrane in a scene from CHAINS.

Chains tells the stories of a few ordinary people yearning for a less ordinary life. Charley lives with his wife Lily in suburban London, sharing a cramped house with a lodger. Charley commutes daily to an office in London, his only pleasure is the tiny garden patch beside the house which gives little satisfaction. Charley’s sister-in-law, Maggie, finds the drudgery of shop work so stifling that she plots an escape by marrying a kind man she doesn’t love—an escape that can’t provide the adventure she craves. Charley & Maggie are both shaken when Charley’s lodger announces that he’s tired of the grind and he’s leaving for Australia—the day after tomorrow. His decision sends a tremor through the family that threatens to break the ties that bind Maggie and Charley to their ordinary lives. “There is a touch of genius in its absolute sincerity and pathos. Not one word too much, not one situation too extreme mars it,” wrote The Sun, 1910.

Avery Whitted
Avery Whitted in a scene from CHAINS.
 

“Meet Miss Baker” began in 2019 with The Price of Thomas Scott, Baker’s fascinating and frustrating portrayal of a man struggling with his conscience. “To its credit, the Mint has long rescued obscure plays by women, from Maurine Watkins’s So Help Me God! and Dawn Powell’s Walking Down Broadway to the rehabilitation of Teresa Deevy (who landed four productions over seven years). It’s easy to see what drew the Mint Theater Company, that esteemed excavator of long-forgotten works, to The Price of Thomas Scott… The show brings up tantalizingly thorny issues of faith, hypocrisy, sacrifice and selfishness, they are like dark clouds hovering above the story,” said Elisabeth Vincentelli in The New York Times.


Amelia White, Laakan McHardy & Elisabeth S. Rodgers in a scene from CHAINS.

“Thank heaven for the unwavering commitment of Jonathan Bank, the theatrical archaeologist whose Mint Theater Company unearths long-forgotten plays and imbues them with new life,” declared The New York Times in response to a recent Mint production. Mint Theater was awarded an OBIE Award 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.”


Avery Whitted & Claire Saunders in a scene from CHAINS.

Christopher Gerson in a scene from CHAINS.

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Peterson Townsend in a scene from CHAINS.

Jeremy Beck & Laakan McHardy in a scene from CHAINS.

Laakan McHardy in a scene from CHAINS.

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