Yours Unfaithfully: a rediscovered poly play from 1933 becomes a thing.
A play that wins a stellar review and a Critics Pick from the New York Times is going places. Miles Malleson, an open-marriage advocate and practitioner with his wife, wrote Yours Unfaithfully [sic] in 1933, but it was never produced. Now it's finally onstage. From the modern poly movement's perspective it sounds rather conventional, dated, and uninformed, but this was 1933.
First, from a more historically oriented story in Time Out New York:
Yours Unfaithfully brings a 1930s depiction of polyamory to light
By Sandy MacDonald
In 1933... polyamory was a practice without a label: The term wouldn’t emerge for another half-century. But smart London was atingle with notions of free love, and Malleson... was an avid proselytizer, graciously sharing his spouse with Bertrand Russell, who happened to have a wife of his own. Malleson’s bio, synopsized in the production’s program, suggests a life story considerably more colorful than the tidy marital drama that unfolds onstage.
[We meet] a young, attractive couple at loose ends. As new parents unhappy with the religious orthodoxy espoused by local educators, they’ve started their own school (as the real-life Russells did). The project has sidetracked Stephen, an iconoclastic novelist, and Anne determines that he needs a diversion. What better pick-me-up than their recently widowed friend, Diana?
First, of course, the trio and their physician confidant must talk — and talk and talk — the whole thing over. It takes two months of importuning on Stephen’s part, plus a written permission slip from Anne, to get the ball rolling toward their arrangement’s “climax” in Vienna.
...The script offers a scrupulous examination of two warring impulses: the urge to explore versus the instinct to nurture and protect. Happily, we’re spared the wink-wink prompts of farce, though Malleson does allude to an extremely vulgar adage of the day, sanitized here as “Fresh kiss, fresh courage.” If only he had applied that tenet to his rather dry disquisition.
The whole review (January 26, 2017).
● From the New York Times review:
‘Yours Unfaithfully,’ on an Open Marriage and Its Pitfalls
By Alexis Soloskijian
...“Yours Unfaithfully,” now receiving its world premiere at the Mint Theater, is a refined, rueful and often shrewd comedy about polyamory, written decades before open relationships were quite so openly discussed. In some ways, it’s surprising that it went unproduced for so long.... But the shock of its content, the gentility of its form and its strong links to Mr. Malleson’s own life must have made it a chancy undertaking.
...When Anne sees Stephen mired in marital and intellectual doldrums, she encourages him to have an affair with their beautiful friend Diana. Stephen is persuaded, Diana is willing, and everything’s just dandy until it isn’t.
...Ultimately, the play’s insistence on the sanctity of open marriage, a stance that apparently reflected Mr. Malleson’s own beliefs and practices, isn’t all that persuasive. If the central claim, that to “live effectively” you must walk the line between “a great slope of complacence on one side” and “rather a mess-up of promiscuity” on the other, sounds reasonably plausible in the moment, that is a credit to the dapper Mr. von Essen. Does the road to moral enlightenment and matrimonial contentment absolutely lead into the beds of selected others? Is there really no other way? Separate vacations, maybe?
But what is extraordinary about Mr. Malleson is his ability to create characters who are capable of feeling several things at once, or who don’t really know what they’re feeling at all. Both Stephen and Anne seem genuinely surprised that their hearts and minds aren’t as orderly as they had believed....
Read the whole review (January 26, 2017). Includes a video excerpt from the production.
● A review in the Times Square Chronicles:
The whole review (January 26, 2017).
A Delightful Look At Marriage and Fidelity
...Stephen and Anne (Max von Essen and Elisabeth Gray), have been blissfully happy for eight years of marriage and are the envy of all their friends. They are totally committed to living up to their ideals which include an open marriage.
...Stephen’s father the Reverend Canon Gordon Meredith (Stephen Schnetzer) discovers the affair between his son and Diana. Now Anne has to deal with not only her feelings of jealousy, but the fact that others know. This puts the marriage at stake, but in the end love saves the day.
...The cast is exquisite with just the right amount of everything. ... In a time when the world seems out of control, it was nice to be captivated and slip into another time and place. Make sure you catch this sublime endeavor.
● Broadway World review (Jan. 31).
● Update February 13: Review on the Huffington Post by Eric Uhlfelder: Between The Ideal And Reality With ‘Yours Unfaithfully’.