Poverty beats honesty in ‘Temporal Powers’

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Poverty beats honesty in ‘Temporal Powers’

NEW YORK - When a good man tries to do his honest best for his discontented wife, whereas she would apparently do anything for money, there’s bound to be trouble.

Playwright Teresa Deevy illustrates the unfortunate effect that discovering a hidden cache of money has on one such couple and their impoverished, rural Irish community in 1927, in her powerful play “Temporal Powers.”

The suspenseful drama is having a welcome revival Off Broadway by the Mint Theater Company. A highly talented cast is well directed by Jonathan Bank, who also directed the Mint’s successful revival of another Deevy play, “Wife To James Whelan.”

Deevy, a popular Irish playwright at the Abbey Theater in Dublin during the 1930s, had an acute ability to understand and convey the small, pivotal moments amid everyday events that forever change people’s lives. The recognizable foibles of her village characters are employed with relish by Bank’s skilled ensemble.

Mick and Min Donovan (rich portrayals by Aidan Redmond and Rosie Benton) are the unhappy married couple, evicted from their home and forced to take temporary shelter in an old brick ruin. Mick is an honest, hard-working but downtrodden man, while Min, once optimistic and lovely, but grown hard and bitter, ceaselessly belittles him for his lack of ambition and his failure to keep them from poverty.

Wrapped in a shawl, Benton wrathfully hurls Min’s insults like knives at Mick, deftly inserting a few tender glances amid the verbal assaults, so Min is not a one-note harridan. Redmond’s artful embodiment of a stoop-shouldered, defeated man who nonetheless still loves his wife is profoundly moving.

The discovery of a pack of bank notes in their shelter sets them against one another, with Mick wanting to do the honest thing and give the money to their parish priest. But Min, desperate to escape poverty, is angered when he says “Poverty was meant for us.” Contemptuous of his sense of honor, she begins plotting how to get the money for herself if he won’t cooperate.

A colorful group of neighbors keep dropping in, as it develops that the money is, of course, stolen and the thief is probably Mick’s ex-convict brother-in-law, Ned Cooney (a nicely sleazy portrayal by Con Horgan).

With suspense building, neighbors turn on one another, and there are surprising betrayals and confessions. Mick struggles between his beliefs versus making Min happy, while Min loses faith in her husband and, in desperation, makes some fateful choices.

“Temporal Powers” is another triumph in Bank’s project to bring forgotten playwrights to the modern stage, and it’s a pleasure to see Deevy’s work again brought impressively to life.

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