The title of D.H. Lawrence’s The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd rather gives the game away. When we first meet Mr. Holroyd (Eric Martin Brown), we know he’s not long for this world. And since he’s employed as a miner, the manner of his incipient death is none too mysterious. Yet this 1910 play, a coal-stained mélange of realism and ritual, directed by Stuart Howard for the Mint Theater, does offer plenty of surprises: Characters never quite behave in the manners we expect, nor do scenes play out in familiar rhythms.
Written early in Lawrence’s career, when he was just 25, the play trucks in awkwardness as well as innovation. In an effort to establish character and manage exposition, Lawrence has Mrs. Holroyd (Julia Coffey) talk to herself. He also demands she enjoy an adulterous liaison with her husband passed out not three feet away. Certainly, Mrs. Holroyd lacks the polish of The Daughter-in-Law, the Lawrence work the Mint has previously staged, but both plays offer fictional treatment of Lawrence’s parentage—a misalliance between a coal miner father and a genteel mother. Here, the father is a terrible lout, but the missus finds some pleasure in her children and the attentions of Blackmore (Nick Cordileone), a pleasant electrician.
Howard gives the script a very plausible production, even though Brown is far too nice for the lead role and Coffey is sometimes stiff. Really, as Lawrence’s plays were thought too scandalous in their day and have rarely been staged since, almost any showing is welcome. Even in their portraits of marital discord, Lawrence’s works provide much to love, honor, and cherish. Alexis Soloski
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 11, 2009