NEW YORK (AP) — A "wild" young woman in 1936 Ireland was one who didn't conform to rigid societal expectations. Just being alone in a room with a young man would subject her to gossipy suspicions about her character.
The suspenseful, subtle revival of "Katie Roche" that opened Monday night at the Mint Theater is the third in their series resurrecting the work of noted Irish playwright Teresa Deevy.
Originally produced in 1936 by Ireland's Abbey Theatre, the irony-filled play was a protest against the proprietary and even violent attitudes prevalent toward women in Ireland. Life was ruled by pressure from the Roman Catholic Church, and women were expected to conform, and be pious and obedient.
Deevy wrote complex characters, and the irony within this play often depends on actors projecting emotions without words. A look or an action can instantly change the course of a character's life, before they quite realize what's happened. As adeptly staged by the Mint's artistic director, Jonathan Bank, his cast is quite accomplished at making the most of these nuances and pivotal moments.
Wrenn Schmidt ("Boardwalk Empire") plays the title role with verve, giving servant girl Katie an enchanting, glowing air of youthful joy, uncertainty and hope. Willful, flirtatious and feisty, Katie is prone to mercurial mood changes that result in outbursts of impatient anger, fear or sudden realization, as she struggles to make decisions and find her purpose in life.
Hoping to do something "grand," she consults with a traveling holy man (Jamie Jackson) while considering either joining a convent, accepting an unexpected marriage proposal from a much older man, or continuing to walk out with Michael Maguire, a boy her own age.
Jon Fletcher is quite appealing as Michael, whom Katie twists around her little finger with no real idea of what she wants from him. Her suitability for the convent is definitely questionable, too, as she's prone to flippant remarks like, "Ah, you couldn't go very much by the Bible; what's said in one place is unsaid in another, and that's the great puzzle."