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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
A LITTLE JOURNEY
at the Mint Theater

SLEEPING CAR
By MATT WINDMAN

  Samantha Soule and Jennifer Blood

The social-minded dramas of Rachel Crothers, a prolific and popular playwright of the early- to mid-20th century, have now been all but forgotten and are hardly ever revived. In addition to seriously exploring the woman’s evolving role in American society, Crothers became one of the most powerful females in the American theater by directing many of her plays.
 
Her 1937 drama Susan and God, which is probably her best-remembered play, received a fine revival several seasons ago by off-Broadway’s Mint Theater Company, which specializes in rarely performed American dramas. Now the Mint is staging A Little Journey, a much earlier work of hers that was first performed on Broadway in 1918. It was a nominee for the very first Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
 
Set in 1914 on an old-fashioned Pullman sleeping car, a cross-section of figures from society is observed going on a cross-country trip, including two male college students (Ben Hollandsworth and Ben Roberts), a black porter (Anthony L. Gaskins), a door-to-door salesman (Craig Wroe), a destitute and desperate single mother (Jennifer Blood), a nearly deaf old woman (Rosemary Prinz) and her pubescent granddaughter (Chet Siegel), a stuck-up businessman (Douglas Rees), and a difficult and demanding society matron (Laurie Birmingham).
 
Julie (Samantha Soule), an unhappy young woman who is on her way to live with her brother and his family, quickly realizes that she forgot to bring her ticket on board. To her luck, she is bailed out by Jim West (McCaleb Burnett), who had made a career out of training individuals who are lacking confidence to take charge of their lives.

While the bulk of the three-act play focuses on character development and the growing relationship between Lily and Jim, the train suddenly crashes at the end of act two, leaving the survivors to ponder their future while stranded on a mound of rocks in act three.
 
The progressive viewpoints expressed by Crothers, as best seen in Lily’s transformation into a sort of superwoman who no longer needs to depend upon the kindness of strangers, certainly feel overstressed by modern standards.
 
But the melodrama retains charm and, as directed by Jackson Gay, is quite enjoyable. This is quite a large production, with a reconstructed Pullman car that revolves around like a carousel and a strong 14-member cast.
 


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