Review: ‘Yours Unfaithfully’ at the Mint Theater Company

I regret to say that until I saw Mint Theater Company’s production of Miles Malleson’s comedy Yours Unfaithfully, I wasn’t aware of the author, hadn’t heard of him. A great lack on my part, because as a playwright, screenwriter, producer, director, and character actor he had established himself as a brilliant and very versatile theatre legend, working in his native England for well over 30 years beginning in the early 1930s.

By bouncing back and forth from the stage and film as actor and writer beginning in the World War I years and continuing through the 1920s he led parallel professional lives on and off stage and screen. His first play, Youth, was produced in 1916 when he was 28, and he followed it with Conflict in 1925. In 1927 his play The Fanatics became his greatest financial success by giving 313 performances, a very long run in its time.

His plays dealt with many issues of topical concern, including premarital sex, infidelity, and open marriage, but I can find no record of any of them crossing the Atlantic Ocean, which explains my lack of awareness of them. Malleson’s work as actor in film was often limited to very small roles, though in looking back I have some memory of finding him colorful in Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright in 1950 and as the Reverend Chausible in the 1952 The Importance of Being Earnest.

Max von Essen and Elisabeth Gray in Yours Unfaithfully. Photo by Richard Termine.

Yours Unfaithfully was written in 1933 but never produced, so we salute Jonathan Bank for staging the world premiere of this absolutely delightful comedy, which deals in three acts with a couple in a happy marriage who must cope with one of its basic premises — that infidelity is perfectly permissible in a solid relationship.

Malleson’s ear for the language of the upper midle class in England is impeccable. Stephen and Anne Meredith, a couple in their thirties, have been happily married for 8 years when Stephen allows himself to woo and win Diana Streatfield, one of Anne’s close friends. Max von Essen and Elisabeth Gray as the free thinking couple, and Mikaela Izquierdo as the very attractive ‘other woman’, bring to the stage the style of acting that hasn’t been in fashion since the Lunts and Ina Claire went to their rewards.

Rounding out the quintet of stylish performances, all of them truthfully based, are Todd Cerveris as a Doctor friend and Stephen Schnetzer as Stephen’s father, the Reverend Canon Gordon Meredith. Mr. Schnetzer, (who only recently joined the cast following the departure for TVLand of John Hutton) even bears a great resemblance to von Essen, and though their resemblance is startling, their very different views on their current situation are explored with great wit and insight by their playwright and by the two actors. Mr. Cerveris in the supporting role of the Dr. with whom Anne had once briefly put theory to the test, makes every moment count with the lightest of touches.

Max von Essen, Mikaela Izquierdo and Elisabeth Gray in Yours Unfaithfully. Photo by Richard Termine.

Anne and Stephen’s country house, and later a room in town which they keep for occasional use, are both beautifully realized by Carolyn Mraz’s very realistic sets, both of which are augmented by characteristic detail, The costumes by Hunter Kaczorowski dress these fine actors perfectly, placing them squarely in the mid-1930s when people in their milieu dressed for dinner. This is exactly the sort of play that Jonathan Bank and his colleagues at the Mint are mandated to do. I’ve seen many of them, and this particular one is to me the jewel in its crown. All in all, a delightful surprise.

Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes, including two intermissions.

Yours Unfaithfully plays through February 18, 2017 at the Mint Theater Company performing at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row – 410 West 42nd Street, in New York City. For tickets, call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or go online.

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Richard Seff
RICHARD SEFF has been working in theatre since he made his acting debut in support of Claude Rains in the prize winning DARKNESS AT NOON, and he agreed to tour the next season in support of Edward G. Robinson, which took him across the nation and back for nine months. When it was over and he was immediately offered another national tour with THE SHRIKE with Van Heflin, he decided to explore other areas, and he spent the next 22 years representing artists in the theatre as an agent, where he worked at Liebling-Wood, MCA, eventually a partnership of his own called Hesseltine-Bookman and Seff, where he discovered and developed young talents like Chita Rivera, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Ron Field, Linda Lavin, Nancy Dussault and many others. He ultimately sold his interest to ICM. When he completed his contractual obligation to that international agency, he returned to his first love, acting and writing for the theatre. In that phase of his long and varied life, he wrote a comedy (PARIS IS OUT!) which brightened the 1970 season on Broadway for 107 performances. He became a successful supporting player in film, tv and onstage, and ultimately wrote a book about his journey, SUPPORTING PLAYER: MY LIFE UPON THE WICKED STAGE, still popular with older theatre lovers and youngsters who may not yet know exactly where they will most sensibly and profitably fit into the world of show business. The book chronicles a life of joyous work working in a favored profession in many areas, including leading roles in the regional theatres in his work in Lanford Wilson's ANGELS FALL. His last stage role was in THE COUNTESS in which he played Mr. Ruskin for 9 months off Broadway. Five seasons ago Joel Markowitz suggested he join him at DCTheatreScene. His accurate and readable reviews of the New York Scene led, when the time was right, for his joining DCMetroTheaterArts to continue bringing news of the Big Apple's productions just to keep you posted. He is delighted to be able to join DCMTA and work with Joel and hopes that you like what he has to say.