“Lost Plays Found Here.” So says The Mint Theater punningly about their mission. Founded in 1992 by Artist Director Jonathan Bank, the company gives new life to neglected plays primarily from the 1930s. Always polished, frequently charming, and often stunningly relevant, the line-up has included The Voysey Inheritance by Harley Granville-Barker, Rachel Crothers’ A Little Journey, and several works by the nearly forgotten Teresa Deevy. They have made their home in several comfortable venues around Manhattan, most recently City Center and Theater Row.
Financially slammed like every other small theater during COVID, The Mint occasionally opens their vault of recorded shows as a passive income stream. Their current offering is the intense drama, Days to Come. Written by Lillian Hellman between two better known plays — The Children’s Hour and Little Foxes — the plot unfolds over the course of a month in 1936 during a strike against a factory in a small Ohio town. Hellman chose to focus on the social impact the strike has on the close community. She conducted interviews with workers and management of the Wooster Brush Company to help her create characters of depth and conviction without the aim of solving their issues. Andrew Rodman, the owner, and Thomas Firth, the most vocal of the workers, are friends. Their long-term relationship makes their conflict more complex, especially when outside forces intervene. As events unfold it becomes clear that simply knowing a person over time doesn’t guarantee you can anticipate their actions.
Director J.R. Sullivan builds the tension between various pairs of characters, each with a distinct style and agenda. Larry Bull is the heart of the show, imbuing Andrew with surprising sensitivity and self-awareness. In contrast, Chris Henry Coffey’s Tom is all gut reaction. Coming between them is Ted Deasy’s Henry Elliot, a lawyer who’s wealth and style mask a grimy interior. In arguably the most difficult role, Mary Bacon successfully balances the symptoms of Andrew’s sister, Cora’s, mental illness with genuine if misguided concern. The rest of the cast includes Janie Brookshire, Dan Daily, Roderick Hill, Betsy Hogg, Geoffrey Allen, Kim Martin-Cotten, Wendy Rich Stetson and Evan Zes.
Recorded in August of 2018, the stream is very stable and there’s no log in process, though a valid email address is required. Audio quality is excellent and subtitles easy to read. It is shot from the audience viewpoint with straightforward camera work which never distracts. Costume designer Andrea Varga sets the tone with wonderful fabrics, which can be seen with increased clarity. And even on a small screen, the Rodman’s living room designed by Harry Feiner is lush with decorative detail.
The original Broadway production of Days to Come was a disaster. The influential William Randolph Hearst stormed out and the run lasted a mere seven days. While the work isn’t the most relatable or smooth of The Mint’s productions, it is well worth the two hour investment. It’s available On Demand at https://minttheater.org/ free of charge though April 2. A request for support will appear in the upper right hand corner at the end, by which time I hope you, too, are a fan.