The Mint Theater
The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row
410 West 42nd St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through July 2, $65
For his latest theatrical excavation, Jonathan Bank and his expert drama archaeologists at the Mint have resurrected Winnie-the-Pooh creator Alan Alexander (A. A.) Milne’s The Lucky One, presenting the first New York revival of the 1922 Broadway play at the Beckett Theatre through July 2. “The Lucky One was doomed from the start with a name like that,” Milne wrote in the introduction to a published volume of five of his plays written in 1916–17. “I see no hope of its being produced. But if any critic wishes to endear himself to me (though I don’t see why he should) he will agree with me that it is the best play of the five.” In 2004, the Mint brought back two other Milne works, Mr. Pim Passes By and The Truth About Blayds, and now is staging The Lucky One, which Milne wrote in 1917 while serving in WWI. It’s a slight but pleasurable tale of upper-class Edwardian desire and doom, featuring a compelling central plot but lacking any bigger scope. The first and third acts are set in the country home of Sir James Farringdon (Wynn Harmon) and his wife, Lady Farringdon (Deanne Lorette), where the golf-obsessed Tommy Todd (Andrew Fallaize) is bragging about a hole-in-one to dapper family friend Henry Wentworth (Michael Frederic). The Farringdons’ virtually perfect younger son, the tall, blond Gerald (Robert David Grant), handsome well spoken, and well placed in the Foreign Office, has just gotten engaged to the beautiful and charming Pamela Carey (Paton Ashbrook). But not everyone thinks he’s the bee’s knees. “The trouble with Gerald, Mr. Wentworth, is that he goes about expecting everybody to love him. The result is that they nearly all do,” says Gerald’s elderly spinster Great-Aunt Harriet, aka Aunt Tabitha. “However, he can’t get round me.” Miss Farringdon prefers Gerald’s older brother, “poor old Bob” (Ari Brand), a dark-haired, dour young man who regrets having been sent into the big bad city by his parents to work on the Stock Exchange. Bob is sore at Gerald, as Pamela was Bob’s girlfriend before he brought her home and introduced her to his brother. Bob is also embarrassed that he has to ask Gerald for help with a serious business problem; Bob’s partner has absconded with ill-gotten money and left him facing possible prosecution.
The middle act takes place in a Dover Street hotel in London, where the family discusses Bob’s situation. “I don’t want to be unfair to Bob; I don’t think that any son of mine would do a dishonourable action,” Sir James says, “but the Law is the Law, and if the Law sends Bob to prison I can’t help feeling the disgrace of it.” When Bob arrives, he has some terse words for his brother. “You could have saved me from this, and you wouldn’t help me,” he sternly tells Gerald. But soon there’s more than that coming between the siblings. One of the highlights of nearly every Mint production is the set, which is often deserving of its own applause (as well as oohs and aahs). In this case, Vicki R. Davis’s design is, like the play, rather pleasant but nothing more, an elegant main room with a few sofas and chairs, doors in the back leading outside, and a long, high two-sided staircase rising across the stage; at the top landing is a large photograph of Bob and Gerald as boys, a constant reminder of a more innocent time. The cast, which also includes Mia Hutchinson-Shaw as Letty Herbert, who provides comic relief with her bestie, Tommy, and Peggy J. Scott as Mason, the family’s longtime nurse and servant, is excellent — Grant (Merchants of Love, Clever Little Lies) is especially charming in his Mint debut — and Mint associate director Jesse Marchese (The Fatal Weakness, I Am a Camera) provides solid direction, particularly in the key scenes involving Bob, Gerald, and Pamela. But there’s not a whole lot of meat to the play, not enough for audiences to chew on. Milne rarely ventures past the well-groomed surface of the landed gentry and their actions. It all makes for a pleasant theatrical experience, but you’ll leave the Beckett wanting a little more — perhaps a few episodes of Downton Abbey.