With its engaging production of "The Truth About Blayds," the Mint continues its rediscovery of A.A. Milne the playwright. The company produced Milne's "Mr. Pim Passes By" in 1997 and is currently running it again, in repertory with "Blayds." Those who know the writer only for a whimsical bear named Pooh may be surprised to learn that the New York premiere of "Blayds" in 1922 was the fourth Broadway offering of Milne's in 54 weeks.
The play deals in part with the vagaries of fame. Oliver Blayds (Jack Ryland) is a British literary institution -- a poet acclaimed as "the last of the Victorians."
That's a mixed blessing for his family, who have always lived small lives in his imposing shadow. Younger daughter Isobel (Lisa Bostnar) has dutifully cared for the poet in his dotage -- giving up on her own dreams of love with a literary critic (Stephen Schnetzer). Elder daughter Marion (the delightfully dithering Kristin Griffith) has married, but her husband William (Jack Davidson) is Blayds' vassal--a secretary who, Oliver suspects, is eager to publish volumes of posthumus "Blaydsiana." Grandchildren Oliver (James Knight) and Septima (Victoria Mack) have both been absorbed into the cottage industry surrounding Gramps and don't feel free to live life on their own terms.
Then, on his 90th birthday (and the eve of his death), the great man whispers to Isobel a secret that will upend things for all his survivors. What follows is a droll examination of human rationalization and self-preservation. Each of the Blaydses has his or her reason for covering up or exposing Blayds' death-bed confession.
"Are one's motives ever pure?" Isobel wonders at one point. That's a key question posed by "The Truth About Blayds," which is pleasingly acted and artfully directed by Mint artistic director Jonathan Bank.