Let the title not deter thee!
By Beatrice Williams-Rude
A thoroughly enjoyable, readily accessible play with the unlikely title, Hindle Wakes, awaits audiences’ delectation.
Although it was written more than 100 years ago, it raises issues of sex, love, ethics and morality that still stir controversy.
While Ibsen, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw had previously addressed these matters, Shaw most acerbically, the characters in Hindle Wakes are more fully realized and the humor is gentle.
“Money is power,” according to one character, but to his consternation not everyone can be bought.
Set in Lancashire, where all aspects of cotton weaving are the heart of its economy, the plot concerns a millworker’s daughter who has spent a weekend with the mill owner’s son. Will he do right by marrying her? The girl, Fanny Hawthorn, hadn’t intended to tell her parents, but once they learn of the illicit affair they are adamant that marriage take place. Fanny’s mother, shrewdly and wickedly embodied by Sandra Shipley is keenly aware of the pitfalls as well as the possibilities the situation presents and insists that her husband confront the mill owner.
When the young man’s parents are informed, they are devastated, but the father, brilliantly and wittily performed by Jonathan Hogan, insists that his son, Alan, is obliged to marry Fanny even though he’s engaged to Beatrice, whom he claims to love. Alan’s mother, valiantly played by Jill Tanner, wants her wealthy husband to buy their son out of his predicament, but the father refuses to try, Fanny’s father, played by wonderfully warm Ken Marks, is his oldest friend and Fanny is a “straight girl,” not a professional trollop.
The engagement of Alan and the beautiful Beatrice (Emma Geer) had been seen by Alan’s parents as not only a love match, but as one with positive financial aspects as well as class implications. Beatrice’s father, splendidly portrayed by Brian Reddy, is a “Sir.”
Alan, the feckless son, perfectly encapsulated by Jeremy Beck, explains to his father that it was just a “fun weekend” and had nothing to do with Beatrice. His father, however, is unwavering in his determination that Alan marry Fanny and break the news to Beatrice. Moreover, he notes, if Alan should defy him he’d cut him off financially.
When Beatrice is informed and Alan seeks her forgiveness, she asks if he would forgive her, if she’d indulged in similar behavior. He’s appalled at the question. He couldn’t even imagine it. Religious Beatrice then insists it’s Alan’s duty to marry Fanny.
However, Fanny has not been consulted and when she is—well here comes the cause of the greatest controversy—she refuses to marry Alan using the same language to Alan, about its having been just a “fun weekend,” that Alan had used to his father.
The two young women, Rebecca Noelle Brinkley as Fanny and Emma Geer as Beatrice, are absolutely enchanting.
As Ada, the maid, Sara Carolynn Kennedy, is a delight.
Not to be a “spoiler,” I’ll not disclose the most satisfying and logical conclusion.
This work has been brilliantly cast and dazzlingly performed. It’s rich with laugh lines that are also thought-provoking. Fanny’s independence stems at least in part by her assurance that she can support herself, she’s a skilled weaver. But Alan and Beatrice are dependent on their parents, who hold the power of the purse.
Regarding the title: Hindle refers to a town in Lancashire, and Wakes or Weeks, to a ten-day bank holiday peculiar to the region. The local dialect is also used, but sparingly. Interestingly, “thee,” “thou,” and “thy” also pop up meaning that in 1910 these terms were not confined to Quakers.
The idea that women could enjoy a “no strings” romp as much as men, brought cries of outrage—and still does in some quarters.
The play, an offering by the Mint Theater Company, was presented by its producing artistic director, Jonathan Banks. It was written by Stanley Houghton and splendidly directed by Gus Kaikkonen. Sets by Charles Morgan; costumes by Sam Fleming; lighting by Christian DeAngelis; sound and original music by Jane Shaw.
It should be noted that the program is fascinating—a really good read.
So run, don’t walk, to buy thy tickets to Hindle Wakes.
Photos: Todd Cerveris
Opens on January 18 and plays through February 17 at the Clurman Theatre, Theatre Row, 410 West Forty-Second Street (between Ninth and Tenth Aves.) in Manhattan. Running time is two hours and fifteen minutes with an intermission.