The Voice of the Turtle is growing into one of the biggest hits to date for two companies: the young New York City theatre troupe, The Keen Company, which put together the production, and the 10-year-old Mint Theatre, which is presenting the show, now extended four extra weeks to Jan. 20, 2002.
The revival of John van Druten's seldom produced play — only Keen's third outing — began Sept. 7 at the Blue Heron Theatre. The show met with praise and overcame the crippling impact of Sept. 11 — in part because the audiences found the play, which is set in Manhattan during World War II, resonated in the city's current emotional environment.
Jonathan Banks, the artistic director of the Mint, saw the play Sept. 23, and concluded the tiny show had a larger audience and deserved a longer run. The gentle comedy neatly fits into the mission of the Mint, which gives new stagings to neglected works of the past. Turtle reopened at Mint's 43rd Street space on Nov. 23 for a six-week run through Dec. 30. That run has now been prolonged through most of January.
In Turtle, Elizabeth Bunch stars as Sally Middleton, who has sworn off love since an affair with a married producer went south. That is, until her promiscuous best friend Olive (Megan Byrne) leaves her alone with the courtly Sergeant Bill Page (Nick Toren), whom Olive has stood up for a better prospect. Turtle originally opened on Dec. 8, 1943, and had a very long run (1,557 performances), though it is little remembered today. Margaret Sullavan starred as Sally under van Druten's direction.
Though gentle and sensitive by today's standards, the play was considered daring in its day for its treatment of love and sex. Sally and Olive openly talk of sexual affairs, and Sally and Bill spends the night together after knowing each other less than 48 hours, with seeming nice girl Sally saying "There's a beast in me, too!" just before the lights go out. Van Druten's other plays include The Distaff Side, I Remember Mama and, perhaps most famously, I Am a Camera. He was also a well known director. One of his last assignments was the staging of The King and I, which bowed on Broadway the same year as Camera.
Tickets are $35. The Mint is located at 311 W. 43rd St. Call (212) 315 0231.
— By Robert Simonson