OFF BROADWAY'S MINT THEATER ANNOUNCES US PREMIERE OF "WIFE TO JAMES WHELAN"
Its First Production of the New Season: The US Premiere of
Wife To James Whelan
by Teresa Deevy, directed by Jonathan Bank
Performances Begin July 29th Kicking Off Two-Year “Teresa Deevy Project”
“One of the most undeservedly neglected and significant Irish playwrights of the 20th century.” -The Irish Times
The Drama Desk and Obie Award-wining Mint Theater Company today announced the cast for their first play of the 2010-‘11 season, the US and Off Broadway premiere of Teresa Deevy’s Wife To James Whelan. Mint Artistic Director Jonathan Bank will direct a cast that includes Rosie Benton (Accent on Youth), Janie Brookshire (The Philanthropist), Shawn Fagan, Jon Fletcher, Jeremy S. Holm, Thomas Matthew Kelley, Aidan Redmond and Liv Rooth (Is He Dead?). Wife To James Whelan will have scenic design by Vicki R. Davis, costume design by Martha Halley, lighting design by Nicole Pearce and sound design by Jane Shaw. This Off-Broadway engagement will begin July 29th and continue through September 26th with Opening Night set for August 23rd (8pm).
Wife To James Whelan will be the first of two plays by Deevy produced by the Mint over the next two years — phase one of Mint’s ambitious “Teresa Deevy Project” which will also include readings, recordings and publications. Deevy’s prize-winning play Temporal Powers will follow in 2012.
Teresa Deevy had six plays produced by the Abbey Theatre between 1930 and 1936. When Wife To James Whelan, Deevy’s next and perhaps best play, was rejected it effectively ended her career as an Abbey playwright. “I must just make an opening elsewhere,” she wrote to a friend, and then began to write for the radio — a rather remarkable turn of events, given that she was completely deaf. Deevy had lost her hearing in her late teens, the result of Ménière’s disease. When her family sent her to London to study lip-reading she fell in love with the theater and decided to pursue a career as a playwright.
Wife to James Whelan was not produced until 1956, when it received a critically-acclaimed production at The Studio Theatre Club in Dublin, a small, well-respected company run by Mme. Bannard Cogley, one of the original directors of the Gate Theater. Remarkably, all traces of the play’s script disappeared after this production, until it was discovered nearly 40 years later in an envelope in the family home, misfiled amongst other papers. The play was published in 1995 in the Irish University Review. Mint Theater’s production will be the second production ever, and the first outside of Ireland.
Set in a small town in the middle of Ireland, Wife To James Whelan is the heart-wrenching story of star-crossed lovers. James is an ambitious young man determined to make his mark. Nan wants him to be content with what he has “and not be forever pushing forward.” We meet them first on the day James learns he’s won a prize job in Dublin, leaving Nan behind. James asks Nan to wait for him, but she’ll “make no promise.” We next see James seven years later, sole proprietor of a thriving new enterprise in Killbeggan, the “Silver Wings” Bus Service and “all the girls are going at him full tilt.” Three women might be ‘Wife to James Whelan’: Nan, his true love, Kate, his true friend, and Nora, who appeals to his ambition—but the unanswered question of the play is whether anyone or anything can bring him happiness.
After years of rejection, Teresa Deevy had her first play, Reapers, produced at Ireland’s Abbey Theater in 1930, at the age of 36. Although it was not a triumph, it clearly introduced a playwright of great promise: one of Ireland’s leading critics predicted: “The new dramatist from whom most may be expected in the future is Miss T. Deevy” (Dublin Magazine). Deevy lived up to those expectations in 1932 when Temporal Powers shared first-prize in the Abbey’s new play competition. The Irish Times described it as “one of the most thoughtful works seen for sometime at the Abbey.” Frank O’Connor, author and future Abbey director sent Deevy a note: “When I saw Reapers I knew something was happening. When I saw your new play, I realised it had happened with a vengeance.” In 1936 Deevy’s most popular play, Katie Roche, premiered. It was published in the “Famous Plays” series (“even though it cannot yet be called famous,” the publisher acknowledged) and was revived by the Abbey in 1949, 1975 and 1994 — each time to critical acclaim: Deevy “had a more sensitive ear for dialogue and a more sensitive heart for human feeling than many later and harder trying successors,” exclaimed Seamus Kelly, drama critic for The Irish Times in 1975.
Performances of Wife to James Whelan Off Broadway, which begin July 29th and continue through September 26th, will be Tuesday through Thursday at 7 PM, Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM, and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets are $55. All performances will take place on the Third Floor of 311 West 43rd Street. To purchase tickets, or for more information, click here.