As every amateur herpetologist knows, turtles don’t have much of a voice. (If they did, it would likely be atrociously scaly and squeaky.) But some zany contributor to the King James Bible had the bright idea to write “turtle dove” as “turtle,” so centuries later we have thousands of samplers and coffee mugs declaring that “the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”
John van Druten’s 1943 play The Voice of the Turtle (Mint Theater) warbles in tones neither scaly nor squeaky, though slight. The romantic comedy concerns a soldier and an actress embarking on a love affair during a furlough weekend. Ditched by the brassy Olive (Megan Byrne), Sergeant Bill Page (Nick Toren) finds himself at the tender mercies of Olive’s winsome best friend, Sally (Elizabeth Bunch).
It’s clear from the first moments that billing and cooing will soon arise, but Sally has to pretend to be terribly modern and sophisticated, even going so far as to quote Dorothy Parker poems to delay the inevitable. The actors, though occasionally over-earnest, are engaging enough, and Carl Forsman directs with unostentatious confidence. But two-and-a-half hours is a long time to watch almost any pair get around to adoring each other.
The Keen Company, who produced the play, and the Mint Theater Company, who extended it, seem awfully eager to draw parallels between the play’s wartime landscape and our own. Such comparisons may be odious, but it’s comforting to know some things haven’t changed a bit since van Druten’s 1943: Actresses yet lament finding an affordable sublet, scalpers charge unspeakable amounts for Broadway shows, and it’s still impossible to catch a New York taxi in the rain.