Stanley Houghton’s “Hindle Wakes,” an obscure British play from 1912 that’s been dusted off and revivified by the Mint Theater Company, begins with a storm. Lightning flashes, the air rumbles and Sarah and Christopher Hawthorn wait fretfully for their grown daughter, Fanny, to return from her holiday.
Inside their kitchen, they light the gas lamps, and it’s all very lulling — until, out of nowhere, comes a thunderclap so bold and startling that, at the performance I saw, at least a half dozen spectators visibly jumped out of their seats. Bravo, then, to the sound designer, Jane Shaw, but kudos also to Houghton, whose play proceeds much along the same pattern — gentle as a summer rain until, bam, in Act 2, something electric happens to charge the air.
Gus Kaikkonen’s handsome, rough around the edges production, at the Clurman Theater, makes a better case for the play as a curiosity than a forgotten gem, though. This is a paean to women’s sexual freedom from a time before they even had the right to vote.
Scandal is brewing from the start. Fanny (Rebecca Noelle Brinkley), a weaver at the local cotton mill, told her parents that she was vacationing with a female friend — and she was, until she met Alan Jeffcote (the appealing Jeremy Beck), the mill owner’s overindulged son, and went off to have a fling with him.
Piecing this together, her parents are determined that Alan, who is already engaged to the wealthy Beatrice (Emma Geer), make amends for his flagrant indiscretion. To them, and to Alan’s father, Nathaniel, that means marrying Fanny.