Theater review. Mint Theater Company. By Teresa Deevy. Dir. Jonathan Bank. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 20mins. Two intermissions.
Teresa Deevy’s Irish dramas aren’t tragedies in the ancient Greek sense. Her ambitious protagonists are neither highborn nor true victims of fate, although they might argue that not being the former makes them the latter. But tragedy is a fitting term for the trio of works the Mint has excavated over three seasons for its reintroduction of the 1930s Abbey darling, who faded into near obscurity after that historic Irish theater stopped staging her plays.
Poor choices as much as unfortunate circumstances steer the fortunes of the title character in Katie Roche, Deevy’s biggest hit in its day. Although not as hefty as the previous offerings, Temporal Powers and Wife to James Whelan, it’s another sharp, carefully considered character study of a young woman undone by pride. Illegitimate and orphaned, Katie (Wrenn Schmidt) didn’t have an easy start, but now holds a respectable job in the village home of Amelia Gregg (Margaret Daly). Still, Katie’s desire for the extraordinary—especially after hearing that her father came from well-to-do people—prompts her to hastily accept the marriage proposal of Amelia’s much older brother, Stanislaus (Patrick Fitzgerald). In the book of misguided choices, it’s a doozy.
So is Schmidt. A well of emotions, her Katie turns seamlessly from fraught yearnings to fiery explosions. Fitzgerald doesn’t match her range, but director Jonathan Bank and his ensemble tease out the play’s subtextual finery, especially where Katie’s need for and rage against father figures collide. Throughout, Deevy’s prescient, prefeminist voice abounds with tempered affection for her wayward creations—for whom no catharsis is in store.—Diane Snyder