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The Price Of Thomas Scott

What would the world say of him? — Annie Scott about her father's decision about the future of his floundering drapery establishment.
The Price Of Thomas Scott
Donald Corren and Emma Geer (Photo by Todd Cerveris).
With its latest rescue mission the Mint Theater Company has returned to that corner of theatrical attic reserved for forgotten and under appreciated women playwrights. The once again well-served scribe this time is Londoner Elizabeth Baker (1876 - 1962). And The Price of Thomas Scott, which had only one production more than a century ago, marks the beginning of the Mint's giving its audiences a chance to "Meet Miss Baker" with two other plays this summer, as well as future readings and a book.

What do I mean about Baker being well-served by her Mint "come-back"? Let me count the ways.
The company's producing artistic director Jonathan Bank, who's at the helm of The Price of Thomas Scott, has been true to the play's content and the style of theater during the days when Harley Granville Barker was in charge of London's Royal Court Theatre —visits to which inspired Baker, a 30-year-old typist with neither theater going or playwriting experience, to try her own hand at dramatizing the working class life that was her milieu).

The style of the day, being realism with large casts, and a 3-act structure, the Mint's The Price. . follows suit. Vicki R. Davis has devised a handsomely furnished unit set. The eleven cast members are outfitted in keeping with the period and their characters by costume designer Hunter Kaczorowski. However, in keeping with the times, Mr. Bank has smartly streamlined the text to clock in at 90 minutes, with just brief pauses between acts, punctuated by Jane Shaw's thematically apt music arrangements.

By paring the script down to the under two-hour single act format favored by today's audiences, the questions Ms. Baker posed—but intentionally left without a conclusive ending— are likely to kick up questions relevant to the ethical dilemmas faced by these characers' present day counterparts.

Of course, the Mint's mission is as much to entertain as to acquaint and educate theater goers about neglected plays. Thus count on Mr. Bank to use Thomas Scott's chief issue to add his own original and fun coda.
Here's the scenario: The setting is the office and sitting room in back of Thomas Scott's (Donald Corren) drapery business and the living quarters occupied by him, his wife Ellen (Tracy Sallows), book smart teen--aged son Leonard (Nick LaMedica) and daughter Annie (Emma Greer) who's the company's gifted hat finisher. It's a big place, but the economy has not been kind to drapery businesses like this (shades of Amazon's effect on so many city retailers). consequetly Annie and Leonard's secret dreams — Hers of going to Paris to train as a fashionable hat designer, and his to take advantage of a scholarship and more interesting career opportunity than working for dad. The reason that the young people's dreams are secret is that their father rules the roost and according to his strictly religious view of modernity, especially fun activities like dancing and theater, as sinful.

Having herself grown up in this sort of intensely religious working class home, Elizabeth Baker was well equipped to imbue her drama with authenticity. The story she concocted focused on a central character whose deeply held religious beliefs are challenged by a compromising opportunity. It's Thomas Scott's opposition to dancing and theater that lead to the main plot complications. The price of the title refers is empting enough to tempt even Scott to grab the chance to free himself and his family from struggling to stay afloat — and his attitudes and actions affect not just his wife and children, but the other characters we meet.

Those characters are mostly friends and neighbors and fellow church members like Tewkesbury (Jay Russell), Annie's friend May Rufford (Ayana Workman) and her dad (Mark Kenneth Smaltz). Since the family's living quarters are large, Mrs. Scott has also helped their diminishing finances by taking in boarders which also brings on an existing and potential new boarder — Johnny Tite (Andrew Fallaize) who's in love with Annie, and his decidedly modern and keen on dancing friend Harley Peters (Josh Goulding).

While the actors all fit their parts well, the men fare best, especially Donald Corren as the titular main character and Mitch Greenbberg as Wicksteed, Scott's old schoolmate who now represents the company offering to buy the Scott property for a hard to resist price. It's this offer of course that creates the plot arc. You see, contrary to what Scott thinks, Wicksteed is no longer in the clothing business, but wants to use the draper's property to run the dances that are quite the rage around London.

I'll leave it to you to find out for yourself whether Thomas Scott will pay the price that would mean a brighter future for his family. But rest assured that everyone will have a different response when Annie wonders what the world would say about her father.

Based on this first introduction to Elizabeth Baker's work, I'll wait until the rest of the Mint's "Meet Miss Baker" season to decide if I share their belief that she warrants the coverage given to Irish playwright Teresa Deevey. One thing never in question with anything the Mint does is that they offer wonderfully informative, must-read programs which, along with other enrichment material, are also presented superbly (See the Mintwebsite).

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The Price Of Thomas Scott by Elizabeth Baker
Directed by Jonathan Bank
Cast: Donald Corren (Thomas Scott), Andrew Fallaize (Johnny Tate), Emma Geer (Annie Scott), Josh Goulding (Hartley Peters), Mitch Greenberg (Wicksteen), Nick LaMedica (Leonard Scott), Jay Russell (Tewkesbury), Tracy Sallows (Ellen Scott), Mark Kenneth Smaltz (George Rufford), Ayana Workman (May Rufford), and Arielle Yoder (Lucy Griffin)
Scenic design by Vicki R. Davis
Costume design by Hunter Kaczorowski
Lighting design by Christian DeAngelis
Sound design by Jane Shaw
Prop design by Chris Fields
Choreography by Tracy Bersley
Dialects & Dramaturgy by Amy Stoller
Stage Manager: Kristi Hess
Running Time: 90 Minutes no intermission
Mint Theater at Theater row 420 W 42nd Street
From 1/24/19; opening 2/20/19; closing 3/23/19. Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30pm with matinees Saturday & Sunday at 2pm. No performance on Tuesday February 5th, with Special Added Matinees at 2pm on February 6th, 13th and March 20th.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at February 13th press preview

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