ESP (Endangered Species Project) Presents The Silver Cord by Sidney Howard on Monday, November 12 at 7 p.m. at North Seattle Community College's Stage 1 Theatre.
One of Sidney Howard's other works has already been presented by ESP - a little over a year ago, we read his Pulitzer prize-winning They Knew What They Wanted. This November 12, we present his comedy - his term - The Silver Cord.
This brilliant and gripping 1926 work is a melodrama - in the best sense of the word. This psychological thriller depicts a weekend-long battle between two women. One is an brilliant young biologist, who's determined to have both her scientific career and a family with her new husband; the other is her husband's mother, who is determined to hang on to, and to control, her sons.
The character of Christina, the younger of the women, is a revelation to those who might assume females were uniformly mothers-and-housewives before the rise of Rosie the Riveter and Betty Friedan. And while the mother's character might, in a less talented playwright's hands, have been another mother-in-law from hell, Howard is far too canny to make her merely a monster - her warped ambitions for her sons arise at least partly out of her inability to lead an independent life of her own. In pitting his younger New Woman against older rigid traditions, Howard manages some trenchant observations about sex roles in the 1920s. Some of these are still stinging today, and, somewhat re-coded, on the lips of politicians and pundits in this very election year.
Don't get us wrong - while ahead of its time in some respects, this is still a 1926 play, and it does show its era from time to time - but it shows its age in a way that feels authentic, and, like They Knew What They Wanted, and other ESP selections, it serves a modern audience by being specific to its own setting - less a "period piece" than a play that illuminates a period - and our own - in surprising ways.
In the original Broadway production, the distinguished stage actress Laura Hope Crews made a sensation of the part of the mother, Mrs. Phelps; she repeated the role in a 1933 film of the play, which featured Irene Dunne as the daughter-in-law. Well-regarded in its time, the film is extremely rare - even Scarecrow video hasn't a copy! - so come out to Stage 1 at North Seattle Community College for rare chance to experience a two-hour
look at the long and treacherously icy weekend of the Phelps family!
Directed by Mark Anders, the cast will include Scott Abernethy, Trick Danneker, Shannon Erickson, Allison Standley, and Cynthia Lauren Tewes.
As always with ESP, there is no admission charge, but we request contributions to cover printing, post-play goodies, and venue costs. The doors will open at 6:30, and the reading begins at 7:00 p.m. (Please note there is no school on this Monday, so there will be even more parking available close to the theatre!).
ESP is a confederation of Seattle theatre artists dedicated to presenting plays that seldom get full productions. In the present economic straits in which regional theatre now finds itself, much of the so-called established international repertoire is neglected, for various reasons: there are too many different settings, or the casts are too large, or, simply, the publicity requirements of selling a play that is both "old" and unfamiliar to general audiences may seem too daunting.
ESP feels that while it is an essential duty of theatres to develop new work, its group sees a parallel need to celebrate older or otherwise neglected plays, and to explore the genius of playwrights such as Maxwell Anderson, George Abbott, Harold Brighouse, Arthur Wing Pinero, and so many more. Through its simply staged readings, ESP hopes to lend live voices to plays that are now silent on our bookshelves.
For more about ESP and previous shows, visit ESP on the web.