Friday, September 24, 2010

Theater Review: Wife to James Whelan

Shawn Fagan and Rosie Benton. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Three Women Vie for His Attentions, but This Guy’s No Prize
By Lauren Yarger
Three women contend to be Wife to James Whelan in a lost work by playwright Teresa Deevy being presented at the Mint Theater, but James (Shawn Fagan) is such a self-centered, judgmental, unforgiving guy, you have to wonder why any of them are interested in the position.

Nan (Janie Brookshire) is James’ first love, whom he leaves in his hometown of Kilbeggan, Ireland, to go off to find his fortune in Dublin. She doesn’t understand his wanting something more out of life than what the small town has to offer. She’s content to stay there and make a life with James. He’s content to have her wait there for him, but never really pops the question while demanding that she not see anyone else while he's gone.

Meanwhile, dependable friend Kate (Rose Benton) wishes James would look at her the way he does at Nan, but wisely keeps her feelings hidden and clings to the close friendship he feels for her instead.

Seven years later, James has made a success of Silver Wings Motor Services, a bus transportation company, and he takes great pleasure in reminding everyone he's boss and hiring his old mate Tom (Aidan Redmond). He also revels in running old nemesis, Bill (Jeremy S. Holm), out of his transportation business. Kate, now helping to run Silver Wings with her brother, Apollo (Jon Fletcher), tells her boss that Nan, who married Jack (Thomas Matthew Kelley), another suitor while James was off making his fortune, is having a hard time providing for her young son following her husband’s death. James enjoys Nan’s humiliation, but eventually offers her a job in the office. Starving, and desperate to provide for her child, Nan steals some money from James’ desk and seeing the act as yet another betrayal, he has her thrown in prison.

If Nan holds out any hopes that she might be able to rekindle the feelings James once had for her, they are threatened by the arrival of Nora (Liv Rooth), the daughter of a business man who might be able to offer James a partnership and further business success. And Kate, with her continued place of trust in James' life, isn’t out of the running either. Which woman will be selected to be wife to James Whelan?

Because Deevy’s writing is so engaging and lyrical, we almost can’t wait to find out who James will choose, despite the fact that his over inflated ego and judgmental, unforgiving nature, hardly make him a worthy catch. The man who insisted on moving forward and not being stuck in the contentment of his small town is the only one unable to move ahead emotionally. Tom, with his steady, kind and wise maturity is a better match for any of the women, but no one seems to notice.

The play is staged on Jane Shaw’s simple brick-and-stone set with two intermissions to break up the 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Wife to James Whelan is a pleasant study of human nature. The almost forgotten playwright is getting her due at the Mint Theater Company, 311 West 43rd St., with the production of this play (through Oct. 3) and a second, Temporal Powers as well as a variety of other activities around the productions.

Tickets are available by calling 212-315-0231 or at

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2024 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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