Age of Innocence, 1928 Dramatization of Wharton Novel, Gets NYC Reading March 27

News   Age of Innocence, 1928 Dramatization of Wharton Novel, Gets NYC Reading March 27
The Drama Desk and Obie Award-winning Mint Theater Company will continue its season dedicated to neglected plays by American women by presenting a staged reading of Margaret Ayer Barnes' 1928 and seldom-seen dramatization, The Age of Innocence, based on the novel by Edith Wharton.

The March 27 event is a benefit for the not-for-profit Mint company in Manhattan.

Barnes' dramatization played for over 200 Broadway performances in 1928 with Katharine Cornell playing Madame Olenska. Rollo Peters played Newland Archer. Cornell then toured the country in the role.

Stuart Howard will direct a cast of 11 that includes Jennifer Harmon, Darrie Lawrence, Claire Lautier, Michael Littig, Sal Mistretta, Dennis Parlato, Derek Smith, Samantha Soule, Molly Stuart, Jeff Talbott and Gregory Wooddell.

According to Mint notes, Margaret Ayer Barnes took up writing at 30 at the encouragement of playwright Edward Sheldon. Barnes and Sheldon then collaborated on two plays, Jenny and Dishonored Lady, which also starred Cornell.

Barnes won the Pulitzer Prize in 1931 for her first novel, "Years of Grace." Age of Innocence, the play, was never published or revived, but Mint artistic director Jonathan Bank found a copy of a typescript in the library at Bryn Mawr University.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer described the dramatization as "One of the most charming plays I have seen in a lifetime's incorrigible addiction to the theatre. Charming is a terribly harassed word and one uses it with regret, but there is no other word which so conveniently expresses the sort of fragrance, as of a delicate faded flower, or an old sentimental song, which pervades the play."

Attend the reading only or plan to have dinner at Le Madeline before the show with Mint artistic director Jonathan Bank and special guest Linda Costanzo Cahir, co-editor of The Edith Wharton Review, to discuss Wharton and Barnes and to hear some fun backstage gossip from the Broadway production starring Katharine Cornell.

Director Stuart Howard, widely known as a New York-based casting director, told, "I got involved because my office has done some casting for the Mint artistic director, Jonathan Bank. He and I have had brief conversations about my possibly directing at the Mint Theater in the future. This benefit reading came up, Eleanor Reissa, a director at the Mint, recommended me and Jonathan invited me."

Howard said, "I jumped at the chance since I love Edith Wharton's novels about New York society and I'd read this adaptation a long time graduate school, I believe. It is a very rare and difficult adaptation to find. The play narrows the action of the novel down to the passionate love affair between an American, Ellen Olenska, who has married into European royalty and the man, Newland Archer, also American, who falls in love with her immediately upon meeting her. She has left her husband, Count Olenska, but has not divorced him; so in New York society of the 1870s, she is considered a woman of, shall we say, 'indeterminate morals.' Archer also has a lot to lose by pursuing this obsessive love: he is a married man who is forging a career in politics."

Tickets for the reading at 7:30 PM are $25; tickets for the reading and dinner at Le Madeline (which begins at 5:30 PM) are $85 and either may be purchased by calling (212) 315-0231 or at

Mint Theater is located on the Third Floor of 311 West 43rd Street. Performances of Soldier's Wife continue to April 2. Tickets for the remaining performances of Soldier's Wife are $45 and are available by calling (212) 315-0231 or online at

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