Review: Fraternal Tensions Fuel the Mint’s Current Find—’The Lucky One’
By Miles Harter, Contributing Writer, May 19, 2017
A.A. Milne is a member of that pantheon of British writers of revered children’s books who also achieved fame in more grown-up literary circles. J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan) was a celebrated Scottish novelist and playwright, and Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) was an esteemed English writer and mathematician. Now, The Mint Theatre Company gives us the opportunity to experience The Lucky One, one of the many acclaimed plays of A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh).
The Mint Theater states its mission as finding and producing worthwhile plays from the past that have been lost or forgotten and presenting them to modern audiences; The Lucky One, a comedy, is its newest find. The play first premiered in New York on Broadway in 1922, and, according to the program, was one of the comedies that opened during the 1921-22 Broadway season. One of the best aspects of each Mint production, in fact, is the program; for The Lucky One, Maya Cantu has written an entertaining biography of the playwright, describing Milne’s prolific career as a playwright before progressing to write the Winnie the Pooh stories.
The set is simple, but elegant, opening in the drawing room of Sir James Farringdon’s country house complete with vintage furniture. Kudos in particular to the costume designer, Martha Hally, who attires the cast in ideal period costumes, including three-piece suits and, in particular, Tommy Todd’s golf outfit.
As the comedy begins, the self-absorbed Tommy, a guest of the Farringdons, is providing an uninterested Henry Wentworth, another guest, with a chipper recap of his recent golf round. They begin discussing the two Farringdon brothers, and the play then focuses on the story of the two brothers and the tensions between them. Bob Farringdon, the older one, is trying to find his place in the world, feeling trapped in his job in the city (the London equivalent of Wall Street). Gerald Farringdon, the charming younger one—favored by circumstances and athletic ability—is working with the British Foreign Service. According to Tommy, “whatever the elder one does, the younger one does a jolly slight better.”
Bob had been seeing a young woman named Pamela Carey (described by Tommy as a “ripper”), but is now with Gerald. Bob ends up facing legal troubles and we feel the rising tension. Another significant person in the lives of Gerald and Bob is their insightful great aunt, Tabitha Farringdon.
Once we realize the true extent of the family conflict, slowly revealed through the characters’ sharp and witty dialogue, we wish to understand more about the motivations of the brothers, but, ultimately, too many questions remain unanswered. Still, the play is marvelous as a study and comedy of manners in early twentieth century upper crust British society.
The cast is solid, but only Ari Brand as Bob and Robert David Grant as Gerald have meaty roles; Milne underuses the other characters simply to advance the story. Andrew Fallaize as Tommy delivers some great lines with wry humor, and Cynthia Harris is a standout as Aunt Tabitha, offering up sharp-tongued witticisms and thoughtful observations. The timing and brevity of Tommy and Tabitha’s lines presage the adorable dialogue of Winnie the Pooh characters Milne later created.
The Lucky One, presented by Mint Theater Company at The Beckett Theatre, Theatre Row, 410 42nd Street, through June 25, 2017. By A.A. Milne. Directed by Jesse Marchese; scenic design by Vicki R. Davis; costume design by Martha Hally; lighting design by Christian DeAngelis; sound design by Toby Algya. Cast: Paton Ashbrook, Ari Brand, Andrew Fallaize, Michael Frederic, Robert David Grant, Wynn Harmon, Cynthia Harris, Deanne Lorette, Peggy J. Scott, and Mia Hutchinson-Shaw.
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Cover: (l. to r.) Ari Brand and Robert David Grant in ‘The Lucky One;’ photo: Richard Termine.