311 West 43rd St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through March 31, $55
The Mint Theater completes its rediscovery of Irish playwright Teresa “Tessa” Deevy (1894-1963) with the subtly eloquent Katie Roche. Led by producing artistic director Jonathan Bank, the Mint is dedicated to staging lost or forgotten works, and they’ve spent the last three years examining the career of Deevy, a heretofore little-known deaf playwright who had six productions mounted at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre between 1930 and 1936. Following well-received revivals of Wife to James Whelan in 2010 and Temporal Powers in 2011 and readings of six other works by Deevy, a well-regarded playwright who eventually ran afoul of artistic politics at the Abbey, the Mint is currently presenting a splendid version of Katie Roche, Deevy’s most popular play during her lifetime. Wrenn Schmidt, who also appeared in Temporal Powers, stars as the title character, a young woman in the service of Amelia Gregg (Margaret Daly) and her brother, Stanislaus (Irish Rep veteran Patrick Fitzgerald), taking care of their countryside cottage. Both siblings, who are much older than Katie, are unmarried, but the ever-respectable, always formal and proper Stanislaus soon reveals his desire to wed Katie, whose mother previously worked for the Greggs, while also trying to convince his sister that she should consider a potential union with big, bawdy Frank Lawlor (John O’Creagh).
But Katie is caught in the middle of multiple worlds; while part of her is attracted to the wealthy domesticity offered by Stanislaus, she still wants to go to local dances, hang out with friends her own age, flirt madly with Michael Maguire (Jon Fletcher, who played Apollo Moran in Wife to James Whelan), and joke with his buddy, Jo Mahony (David Friedlander). In addition, Katie’s well-known illegitimacy — she does not know who her father is — jeopardizes her chances to marry into a respectable family. And finally, Katie has dreams of becoming a saint, which she shares with Rueben (Jamie Jackson), a religious traveler who regularly comes to the village to go door-to-door offering to hear confession and deliver repentance. Told in three acts of forty minutes each, Katie Roche unfolds with an elegant beauty as the often flighty Katie, played with engaging humor by Schmidt, considers her many choices. Fitzgerald is a fine complement to Schmidt, all tight pent-up tension, his white hair perfectly coiffed, his manner direct and straightforward. Directed by Bank on Vicki R. Davis’s lovely living-room set, the show displays Deevy’s skillful economy of words, which allows characters to develop as the plot reveals itself at a clever pace, delving into love, faith, and responsibility. Katie Roche is an utterly charming piece of theater by a playwright worthy of yet further investigation.