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Changes in theatrical fashion, however desirable, tend to cause unintended collateral damage. N.C. Hunter is an especially poignant case in point. For a time in the ’50s, he was both successful and admired, a specialist in Chekhov-flavored studies of the postwar decline of England’s middle class in which such top-tier stage actors as Edith Evans, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson were eager to appear. Then John Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger,” a furious attack on England’s class system that was as blunt as a blow from a blackjack, dynamited London’s West End in 1956, and older playwrights like Noël Coward and Terence Rattigan were shoved into the wings to make way for a new generation of Angry Young Men, as Osborne and his contemporaries were dubbed by the press. While their work revitalized a theatrical scene that had grown etiolated through lack of innovation, it also devastated the careers of several tradition-conscious playwrights who were still doing first-rate work. Hunter was one of them: Though he continued to write until his death in 1971, he vanished into the memory hole of obscurity.
Enter New York’s Mint Theater Company. Dedicated to finding and producing “worthwhile plays from the past that have been lost or forgotten,” the Mint gave the U.S. premiere of Hunter’s “A Picture of Autumn” in 2013, following it up three years later with the first New York revival of “A Day by the Sea” since its brief Broadway run in 1955. I knew Hunter by name but had never seen or read any of his work, and it amazed me to discover that far from being a faded back number, he was an artist of real stature.
Now the Mint is webcasting “A Picture of Autumn” as part of a series of broadcast-quality archival videos taped at live performances, and the strong impression the play made on me when I first saw and reviewed it has been confirmed: It is a work of great distinction…
* * *Read the whole thing here.
Scenes from the dress rehearsal of A Picture of Autumn: