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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE PRICE OF THOMAS SCOTT
at Theatre Row

UNGODLY BUSINESS
By JOE DZIEMIANOWICZ

  Josh Goulding, Emma Geer, Andrew Fallaize and Ayana Workman/ Ph: Todd Cerveris

Everybody cut footloose? Not if the strictly religious British businessman at the heart of The Price of Thomas Scott has anything to say or do about it. And in the modest yet engaging Mint Theater Company revival of Elizabeth Baker’s drama first seen in 1913, Scott does plenty of both. That’s because he deems dancing “immoral.” Same goes for theater.

The play is the first of three American premieres of works by Baker. It is informed, perhaps, by her upbringing, according to a program note for the play, which runs through March 23 at Theatre Row. The action unfolds over a few game-changing days in the lived-in back parlor of the London shop where the hymn-humming Scott (Donald Corren) ekes out a living selling cloth and dry goods. Business is literally hanging by a thread. Finances weigh heavily on the minds of his wife Ellen (Tracy Sallows), and his children, 20-something Annie (Emma Geer) and teenaged Leonard (Nick LaMedica).

Just when finances are at their lowest and the situation most dire, Wicksteed (Mitch Greenberg), a gentleman of the Courtney Co., offers Scott 500 pounds for his store. With that not-so-small fortune, Leonard can attend a good school and carve out a career, boldly ambitious and free-willed Annie can go to Paris and refine her millinery design dreams, and Ellen and Thomas can relax and go to Tunbridge Wells, where they met.

Ahh, money changes everything. Almost. Except, perhaps, a man’s convictions. And when Scott realizes that the deep-pocketed company buying his corner store is all about dance halls and not dressmaking, he has second thoughts about being any part of the ungodly transaction. He wrestles mightily with his conscience, a word that comes up no less than 16 times during the 90-minute show. Such as when someone observes: “If a man can reconcile his actions with his conscience, no one, surely, has a right to say a word.” 

That’s not the only instance of Baker’s script baldly overstating and underlining its case. But the play eventually redeems itself by not tying everything up neatly with a bow. Questions remain. That includes, possibly, your opinion of Scott. Is he a noble man of unbending morality? Or is he running on blind prejudice? 

A conversation with Johnny Tite (Andrew Fallaize), Scott’s lodger, makes you wonder. “But, Mr. Scott, the theater isn’t what you think it,” says the young man. “Have you ever been, now?” “No, and never mean to, either,” responds Scott. “I can read about it, and I know what people have told me.” 

Steadfast? Or foolish? Mileage may vary about the title character. But there’s no debate that this staging directed by Mint artistic director Jonathan Banks boasts period detail, some playful tripping of the light fantastic and, most notably, a tightknit ensemble that includes Josh Goulding, Jay Russell, Mark Kenneth Smaltz, Ayana Workman and Arielle Yoder

Corren and Geer ably lead the way. As Scott, he anchors the show as a man of the working class and unwavering, maybe unreasonable, principle. As his daughter, she shines as a young woman who sees big-picture and appreciates her father’s worth no matter what – and that’s priceless.

 


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