Aidan Redmond and Rosie Benton
in Temporal Powers
(© Richard Termine)
Aidan Redmond and Rosie Benton
in Temporal Powers
(© Richard Termine)
Questions of spirituality and basic human survival swirl around a troubled marriage in Teresa Deevy's Temporal Powers, at the Mint Theatre Company. The production, gently guided by Jonathan Bank and beautifully performed by a fine ensemble, is the second in the company's ongoing efforts to reinvestigate the work of this long-neglected Irish playwright, and as with last year's Wife to James Whelan, theatergoers will most likely find themselves surprised how exceptionally contemporary Deevy's writing is.

The action focuses on an eventful day in the life of Min Donovan (Rosie Benton) and her husband Michael (Aidan Redmond). They've just been evicted from their home and have taken shelter in an old ruin in the Irish countryside (scenic designer Vicki R. Davis makes the crumbling interior both a rustic delight and slightly creepy - a sense enhanced by Jane Shaw's terrific soundscape). From the moment audiences meet her, Min, a bundle of bitter recriminations, fiercely baits her husband about how his selfless work ethic -- and devotion to the church -- has led to their plight.

A small wallet filled with cash that Michael discovers in a nook of the decaying edifice seems as though it might provide the couple with a modicum of relief from their difficulties, but instead, it only exacerbates the tension between them. He's not at all sure that they should keep it; she sees it as the means to start life anew.

Min and Michael's domestic strife (and possible salvation) has an unexpectedly far-reaching impact on the community, particularly for Michael's long-suffering sister Maggie (imbued with dignity by Bairbre Dowling), who's married to recently released ex-convict Ned (Con Horgan). The frisson between Min and Michael even touches the sensitive and thoughtful Moses (played with careful nuance by Eli James) and Lizzie (Wrenn Schmidt), the pert young woman he loves, much to the chagrin of his busybody mother (played with amusing passive-aggressiveness by Fiana Toibin)

It's a richly conceived drama that's laced with not only intrigue as the origins of the cash are brought to light, but also -- surprisingly -- genuine romance. As the play progresses, audiences come to understand how much Min and Michael care for one another thanks to both Deevy's richly conceived script but also because of Benton's and Redmond's superlative performances.

Benton, who fearlessly embraces Min's most unpleasant and unattractive qualities, also manages to communicate the depth of Min's frustration -- both real and imagined -- in her situation. What impresses most about her work, though, is the manner in which she slowly reveals Min's affection for the man she berates with almost nonstop vehemence. Similarly, Redmond's Michael is filled beatific goodness, yet churns with a soft rage and unspoken passion.

The way in which the performers subtly communicate the couple's love only enhances Deevy's O Henry-like ironies, and more than once, audiences may gasp at the twists and turns in the script as Michael and Min wrestle with the moral dilemmas posed by the "good fortune" they've found.