By David Walters
Partnership is the third play of Elizabeth Baker‘s that Mint Theater is staging (part of the series entitled Meet Miss Baker). First presented in 1917, it addressed the social structures placed on women and business that still ring true today.
In an effort to re-introduce forgotten women playwrights, Mint Theater is to be highly commended for doing something that no one else is. In the history of time, there must have been written and produced over one hundred thousand plays or so and most will be forgotten to time. The smaller library of classic plays will last, but so so many disappear into obscurity (maybe rightfully so), but Ms. Baker’s work is strong and Mint Theater is right by revising it.
Partnership is about the tightrope balance between work and living that everyone in a job must balance with themes of working women and economic insecurity. We need to work to provide and get ahead, but there comes with that choice a sacrifice. With every choice we make there is a sacrifice and we are required in living our lives to daily determine if the sacrifice we make today is the correct one.
Kate Rolling (played by Sara Haider whose presence humanely brought the difficulties of the past to the present) owns a dress shop that is doing well but she yearns for more business. Seemingly out of the blue George Pillatt (played with a Dickinsonian blinded determination by Gene Gillette) who owns the biggest dress shop in town offers a business proposition to combine both companies, as well as offering his hand in marriage in this business-only deal. For Kate, this appears to be an answer to her dreams of business expansion as Pillatt has the money to fund her growth, and the contract he proffers treats her “like a man.” An acquaintance of Pillatt’s, Lawrence Fawcett (Joshua Echebiri), introduces Kate to the joys of being alive away from the business world. She becomes torn about what she wants and realizes how her dogged mindset about business has become all-consuming and Pillatt only offers more of the same.
Of course, the play is dated in writing and style. That’s a given as it was written at a different time (Is the writing in Shakespeare dated?). I urge you to stay past the slower expository first interval though as acts two and three give this play value for today, showcases a writing talent that should not be relegated to the warehouse of time, and devulges the obvious reason why Mint Theater chose to mount this production.
Director Jackson Grace Gay does a tremendous job of guiding each actor to bring out the universal humanity of each character. Alexander Woodward‘s set is both compact and expansive creating a small packed dress shop and the openness of the Downs near Brighton.
A call out to Madeline Seidman (as Miss Gladys Tracey) in one of the smallest parts, portrays a lovely depth of emotion that affects the whole audience.
If you’re interested in theater history and what are the stepping stones that today’s theatrical offerings stand upon, this is a lovely show.
Partnership by Elizabeth Baker. Directed by Jackson Grace Gay.
The play is being performed at Theatre Row located at 410 West 42nd St. The show runs through November 12th.
The running time is two and a half hours with two intermissions.
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.