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The Fatal Weakness

  • Theater, Drama
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

The Fatal Weakness. Mint Theater Company (see Off Broadway). By George Kelly. Directed by Jesse Marchese. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. Two intermissions.

The Fatal Weakness: In brief

Having revived Philip Goes Forth last fall, the Mint now turns to another comedy by the neglected George Kelly, a star playwright of the 1920s. This one, from 1946, looks at the vestigial romanticism of a long-married woman. Jesse Marchese directs.

The Fatal Weakness: Theater review by Diane Snyder

Like its protagonist, The Fatal Weakness initially appears unsophisticated. By the time the curtain falls on George Kelly’s perspicacious 1946 dramedy of marital disharmony and infidelity, however, Mrs. Ollie Espenshade has found surprising vigor, thanks in large part to the graceful emotional restraint of Kristin Griffith’s performance. This upper-class lady learns that Paul (Cliff Bemis), her husband of 28 years, might be stepping out on her, having long taken her for granted. Paul’s behavior has already been passed down to their daughter, Penny (Victoria Mack), who has a similarly cavalier attitude toward her spouse (Sean Patrick Hopkins).

Since this is a midcentury Broadway play, easy resolution seems likely. But Kelly—best known for showbiz satires such as The Torch-Bearers (and for being Grace Kelly’s uncle)—wisely takes a more circuitous route. Mrs. Espenshade, a woman so romantically inclined that she goes to weddings of complete strangers, is rattled by Paul’s new lover. She neither tries to win her husband back nor rages over losing him. Her "fatal weakness" is her good nature, and in Jesse Marchese’s precisely executed production, it’s a strength. Griffith dazzles subtly as this character maintains her composure amid a life-changing trial.

She is strongly supported by Patricia Kilgarriff and Cynthia Darlow as Mrs. Espenshade’s maid and divorcée friend, respectively, who bring out the work’s tart humor. Kelly’s last play has its flaws—excessive verbiage, a tendency to slather on themes—but they’re mollified by vital performances.—Theater review by Diane Snyder

THE BOTTOM LINE The Mint does well by Kelly’s forgotten infidelity comedy-drama.

Follow Diane Snyder on Twitter: ‪@DianeLSnyder‬

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