Wednesday, February 23, 2022


I just got back from seeing the Mint Theater Company's production of D.H. Lawrence's violent, hate-filled, and ultimately loving play The Daughter-in-Law.

Lawrence is one of my favorite writers. His novel The Rainbow was the inspiration behind a short play of mine by the same name, and I also loved its sequel, Women in Love, and of course the brilliant and compelling Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Before Lawrence was a novelist, though, he tried to be a dramatist. Unfortunately, none of his plays made it very far. The Daughter-in-Law was unperformed during his lifetime. London's Royal Court Theatre passed on his play The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd, though the Stage Society eventually produced it in 1926.

In Lawrence's prose, the narrator fills in the gaps and lets the reader know why characters perform shocking and otherwise inexplicable actions. As a dramatist, he had no such luxury. Instead, The Daughter-in-Law tends to provide explanations after the fact. Characters smash dishes, yell and scream at each other, even throw valuables into the fire, and we sometimes don't fully understand why until later in the play.

Fortunately, there are reasons, but the actors must perform the difficult task of making actions believable even before we understand the full rationale behind them. Amy Blackman, who plays the titular character Minnie, perhaps has it easiest, since as a former governess trying to make a life with a miner who doesn't seem to particularly care for her, Minnie's motivations seem relatively straight forward. As the play continues, though, Minnie also makes choices that only fully make sense in retrospect.

Tom Coiner plays Luther, Minnie's husband, who we learn early on has also fathered a child with another woman. Coiner is best when we see him trapped, frantically looking for a way out of a situation that he has foolishly made for himself. He is pulled back and forth by Minnie and his domineering mother, played by Sandra Shipley who was previously in the Mint's wonderful production of Hindle Wakes.

Generally, I find that the Mint does a better job with comedies than with more serious plays, but The Daughter-in-Law is an exception. Director Martin Platt deftly guides the actors to give revealing performances in a play you won't want to miss.