At Metropolitan Playhouse, a season of justice

Photo by Jacob J. Goldberg Photography L to R: Holding a photo of her (biological?) son, Frank Ware (Kathleen Dobbs) is confronted by Lione Brum (Regina Gibson).

Photo by Jacob J. Goldberg Photography
L to R: Holding a photo of her (biological?) son, Frank Ware (Kathleen Dobbs) is confronted by Lione Brum (Regina Gibson).

Revival puts a woman’s stamp on a ‘Man’s World’

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |  Innovative, indefatigable and edging ever-closer to its own quarter century mark, the forward-looking, history-obsessed Metropolitan Playhouse is about to launch another season of exploring our country’s theatrical heritage while documenting the culturally dynamic neighborhood it calls home. “Justice” is the theme uniting this season’s program of rarely produced early American plays and new plays drawn from American culture and history. In 2014, their annual “East Village Chronicles” and “Alphabet City” series will return, along with a “Gilded Age Festival” celebrating the creative output of writers working from 1875-1901.

First up on the Season 22 boards: an early work by Rachel Crothers. The long-neglected Crothers (1878-1958) has been given renewed visibility over the past few years, thanks to several well-received regional productions — including “He and She” (1920) at East Lynne Theatre Company in 2011 and “Susan and God” (1937) as well as “A Little Journey” (1918) at The Mint, in 2006 and 2011 respectively.

“A Man’s World” will be the first Mainstage presentation of Metropolitan’s 2013-2014 season. During its 1910 debut, the Times called the play “remarkably fine,” praising its sophisticated, nuanced and truthful handling of important themes. Others weren’t so kind in their assessment, perhaps because Crothers (a woman!) dared to call out a multitude of injustices and double standards — and the play’s sassy name was just the tip of the iceberg. Living on her own terms in 1910 Greenwich Village, main character Frank Ware is a rising novelist documenting New York’s underclass. The well-loved center of a vibrant crew of starving artists (and the foster mother to an orphaned boy), Ware’s multitude of unconventional lifestyle choices is met with gossip from rivals and skepticism from her true love.

Meeting the challenges (and making the compromises) that come with living ahead of one’s time was a familiar theme for Crothers, both on the stage and behind the scenes. The daughter of two Illinois physicians, she graduated high school at the age of 13, studied dramatic arts in Boston and returned to Illinois to help her mother following the death of her father. By age 19, she was living in New York and soon gave up a promising acting career when her plays began to receive frequent production. She went on to write a total of 23 comedies and dramas that, Metropolitan Playhouse notes, always cast “an inquisitive to critical eye on the mores of her age.” Works such as 1921’s “Nice People” and 1931’s “As Husbands Go” earned Crothers as much judgmental ire as critical praise — making the respect afforded to her by this 2013 revival of “A Man’s World” a dose of justice that’s as sweet as it is overdue.

THEATER
A MAN’S WORLD
Written by Rachel Crothers
Directed by Michael Hardart
Through Oct. 13
Thurs.-Sat. at 7:30pm
Wed. & Sun. at 3pm
At Metropolitan Playhouse
220 E. Fourth St., btw. Aves. A & B
Tickets: $25 general, $20 for students/seniors, $10 for children
Visit metropolitanplayhouse.org
Call 800-838-3006

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