The Mint Theater Company, Off-Broadway's purveyor of lost and forgotten classics, semi-classics and oddities, will offer a rare look at the work of playwright St. John Hankin.
Hankin's comedy, The Charity That Began at Home, will begin a run on Sept. 27. Gus Kaikkonen, who directed Harley Granville Barker's The Voysey Inheritance at the Mint, will pilot Charity—a play which was actually first produced by Barker at London's Royal Court in 1906.
The British Hankin (1869-1909) wrote comedies during Shaw's time and was praised by the critic. Charity is about an overly kind family that subscribes to the theory that only the most disagreeable people should benefit from their hospitality, since inviting folks you actually like into your home is a form of selfishness. Hence, the clan's country estate is populated by crushing bores, vulgar parvenus and opportunistic fops, while the pantry is full of incorrigible, yet tolerated servants. The mistress of the house is content with this status quo until her daughter takes charity too far by becoming engaged to a bounder with the idea of reforming him.
Despite having Shaw and Barker as supporters, Hankin failed to prosper in his time. By 1909, he was in and out of a sanitarium in Wales, his health and mind going. Fearful of becoming an invalid, he one day escaped from the institution, tied two barbells around his neck and drowned himself in a nearby pool. He was 39. In the century since his death, his plays have almost never been seen in the U.S., though the Shaw Festival in Canada has embraced his works.
Performances continue to Oct. 27. Tickets will be $35, with low-priced previews (Sept. 27-Oct. 6) at $19.The Mint is located at 311 West 43rd Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. For information call (212) 315-0231.
—By Robert Simonson