It’s good news for this Mint production though bad for Western civilization that Nobel laureate John Galsworthy’s The Skin Game, a snapshot of class conflict in rural England in the 1920s, still feels relevant. The play begins with coarse industrialist Hornblower reneging on his promise to allow the current tenants to stay in cottages he purchased from landed and gouty aristocrat Hillcrist. After receiving a Latinate tongue-lashing from Hillcrist and his frosty wife, Hornblower threatens to convert a nearby estate into a factory, which would not only ruin the Hillcrists’ view but possibly even render their home uninhabitable. They settle their differences as only gentlemen, then as now, would: through blackmail.
Under Eleanor Reissa’s even-handed direction, the play discloses itself discreetly and patiently up until the end, when it descends into soap opera terrain. This is chiefly the fault of Diana LaMar, who, as Hornblower’s daughter-in-law with a secret past, has the habit of continually clutching her stomach to express her deep, deep anguish. But helping to redeem the play’s message is the excellent James Gale, who gives the unabashedly spiteful parvenu Hornblower a dose of Shylockian sympathy. Gale proves there are no good guys or bad guys in class warfare, just plenty of pawns.