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Paulanne Simmons

"Hindle Wakes" Steps Gracefully out of the Past

Hindle Wakes
Directed by Gus Kaikkonen
Mint Theatre Company
The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row
410 W 42nd St
From Dec 23, 2017
Tuesday – Saturday 7:30pm, Saturday & Sunday 2:00pm, Wednesday 1/17 and 2/14 2:00pm
Tickets: $65, www.telecharge.com
Closes Feb. 17, 2018

At a time when the "Me Too" hashtag is the latest permutation of the Feminist Movement, it's hard to realize just how scandalous and revolutionary Stanley Houghton's drama "Hindle Wakes" was in its time. The play, set in the fictional mill town of Hindle in Lancashire during the early years of the 20th century, focuses on the consequences of a weekend tryst between Allan Jeffcote, whose father owns the town's major factory, and Fanny Hawthorn, the mill-hand who works in the factory. And given its controversial past and present relevance, it’s no wonder Mint Theater Company has chosen to stage a revival this season.

Jeremy Beck and Emma Greer in "Hindle Wakes" by Stanley Houghton, directed by Gus Kaikkonen. Photo by Toddo Cerveris.

The play is directed by Mint veteran Gus Kaikkonen and features Jeremy Beck as the weak but willful (and totally narcissistic) Allan, and Rebecca Noelle Brinkely as the independent and unrepentantly sensual Fanny. Charles Morgan has created a set that takes us appropriately back to northern England in the early 20th century. Dramaturge Amy Stoller has made sure the actors speak in dialects appropriate to their time and their status.

In fact, time and place are extremely important in "Hindle Awakes." Stanley Houghton was certainly familiar with the town and the people he was writing about. He was born near Manchester, and his first job was as office boy in his father's Manchester firm. He grew up with the local dialect and knew how to use it effectively.

Perhaps the best evidence of Houghton's deep-seated knowledge is in the title of the play. Wakes or Wakes Weeks began as religious festivals and evolved into secular holidays, particularly in the industrial North, where those who had enough money would head to local seaside resorts, just like the two principles in the play.

As is its wont, the Mint is extremely respectful of the material it has chosen. There are no misguided attempts to update a drama so deeply rooted in its time. Nevertheless, the cast breathes life into the characters in a way that makes them step out of the past and speak to us in a very modern way.

Surely we can all see why Mrs. Jeffcote (Jill Tanner), thinking Fanny is merely a gold-digger, opposes Fanny's marrying her son. Alan's father, Nathaniel (Jonathan Hogan) is a self-made man whose integrity we can all admire. And although we may be a little stumped as to what Beatrice Farrar sees in Alan, her philandering boyfriend, undoubtedly, we can understand the ambivalence she feels about the future of their relationship.

As Mr. and Mrs. Jeffcote and Sir Timothy Farrar, depending on their point of view, try to figure out what is the most honorable or most expedient path to follow, it never occurs to any of them that it might be a good idea to ask Fanny. When she finally makes her opinion known, it is a surprise to all concerned, except the audience, which has been waiting for this all along.


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