Richard and I and our friends David and John went to see *London Wall* at the Mint Theater Company on 4/16. The Mint specializes in forgotten 20th century plays by notable playwrights. We saw their production of George Kelly’s *Philip Goes Forth* this fall. Kelly is best known for three plays from the 1920s, *The Torch-Bearers*, *The Show-Off*, and *Craig’s Wife* (he won the Pulitzer for that one, and it was the basis for the Joan Crawford movie *Harriet Craig*). He was also Grace Kelly’s uncle. We liked *Philip Goes Forth* an awful lot, we decided to see their next show, *London Wall*. I should add that we get cheap tickets for these shows - - we paid $26 each for our tickets (full price would have been $55 or $65).
*London Wall* was written in 1931 by John van Druten, the English writer best known for *Old Acquaintance*, *The Voice of the Turtle*, *I Remember Mama*, *Bell, Book, and Candle*, and *I Am a Camera*. The play takes place in a London law office. There are nine characters: four secretaries (dewy innocent, embittered singleton, rosy romantic, and dumb blonde), two lawyers (one old and decent, the other young and rakish), one office boy, a nice young man from down the hall (boyfriend to the dewy innocent), and a batty old woman with money. The play doesn’t waste any time, neither does it ever feel rushed. It’s beautifully constructed, what you call “a well-made play”. Three acts, and each act ended with the audience wondering what could happen next. John, that devious bugger, figured out all remaining plot points in the intermission before the third act. Kudos to him!
The theater itself is adorable, three floors up on 43rd Street, just west of 8th Avenue - - 100 seats, plenty of legroom. The set for this show was brilliantly designed: it converted from the senior partner’s office to the larger main office in about fifteen seconds, with minimal fuss. Richard said it must be a non-union house, because the set changes were done by (gasp!) the actors.
One of the most interesting things about the play is that it takes place entirely in the workplace and much of the play is centered on the work that the characters are doing. You know how in some movies, plays, TV shows, you sometimes get the sense that these people don’t have jobs? I’m thinking of any Woody Allen movie, or *Friends*. This is the flip side - - everything happens at work. At the end of the play (spoiler alert!) the nice young man from down the hall keeps trying to have his moment with the dewy innocent, but is continually interrupted by people doing WORK.
The ending made me think of Miss Prism’s great line from *The Importance of Being Earnest*: “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what ‘fiction’ means.”