Theater Review - London Wall (NY)

“London Wall,” a well-written play by John Van Druten in 1931, is charming audiences at the Mint Theater, an intimate space that is devoted to producing works from the past that have been lost or forgotten. Born in London in 1901, trained as a lawyer, Van Druten emigrated happily to California in 1940; his romantic plays,  “The Voice of the Turtle,” “Bell, Book and Candle,” and “I Am a Camera,” which truthfully explore the mores of the times, and films such as “Night Must Fall” and the still wonderfully scary “Gaslight,” were very popular.

 

This three act, two-and-one-half hour production of “London Wall,” directed by Davis McCallum, whose excellent work we have so enjoyed in “Water by the Spoonful,” “The Whale” and the musical “February House”, pays close attention to details of office politics. It was a time when women were first allowed into the all-male workplace and this caused problems. The bustling action takes place in the general office of the law offices of Messrs. Walker, Windermere & Co., or Mr. Walker’s room in the office in London Wall, the name of an historic road in the City of London.  The fine period set design by Marion Williams is full of file cabinets and desks, and a telephone station, lit warmly by Nicole Pearce; there, the large cast of secretaries work diligently, typing and taking letters in shorthand, called to their work assignments by the piercing sound of a buzzer and a light. They also undertake tasks with which we are unfamiliar like stitching books, explained in detail by Amy Stoller in the playbill.

 

Julia Coffey is a standout as the experienced Miss Janus, who has been with the firm ten years. She is intent on warning the newest hire, 19 year old Miss Pat Mulligan, played by pretty Elise Kibler (who reminds us of Liz Taylor), to stay far away from Mr. Brewer, a lawyer in the firm.  Stephen Plunkett is slickly attractive as the handsome cad in question, who goes after the young woman. Miss Janus has been dating a gentleman for many years, hoping to be married; when he tells her by phone that he is leaving forever, her devastation is palpable. 

 

Laurie Kennedy and Christopher Sears give refreshing performances. Ms. Kennedy is a wiggy Miss Willesden; costumed brilliantly in crazy shawls and fringe by Martha Hally, she writes a will that changes Pat's life. Sears is the endearing struggling writer, who finds out that he loves Pat with help from Miss Janus. Alex Trow is lovely as Miss Hooper, who's in love with a married man; Matthew Gumley is cute as Birkenshaw, who gets his thrill by listening in on phone calls.  John Hogan, perfect in his part as Mr. Walker, sums it all up when he discovers Brewer attacking Pat.  “Work is work,” he tells Pat. “Keep things separate.” He quickly fires Brewer.  Would that would happen today!

 

“London Wall, a sparkling revival at the Mint Theater 311 West 43rd st. Imagine!  Not an expletive in sight!   Will play only through April 13.      

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