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New York Theater

Susan and God

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Rachel Crothers' 1937 play Susan and God is so timely and engaging that it should be revived yearly at theatres needing great parts for women. Crothers had nearly 30 plays on Broadway between 1906 and 1937, and Susan and God won the Gold Medal from the National Arts Club. George Cukor directed the 1940 film, with Joan Crawford, Fredric March, and Rita Hayworth; on Broadway, Susan was played by Gertrude Lawrence. Under the snappy direction of Jonathan Bank, Susan and God receives an invigorating revival by the Mint Theater Company. Susan, a well-intentioned, unwitting hypocrite, is a terrific role, and Leslie Hendrix (the medical examiner on Law & Order) carries it off with charm and style, at times seemingly channeling Katharine Hepburn.

Socialite Susan returns from England fired up with "religion" — a gently disguised version of the Oxford Group, which inspired the 12-step philosophy behind Alcoholics Anonymous. While she preaches love to her long-suffering friends, Susan would prefer to ignore her family: Husband Barrie (Timothy Deenihan) is an embarrassing alcoholic, and lonely daughter Blossom (adorable Jennifer Blood) longs for parental attention and a respite from the boarding school/summer camp shuttle. When Barrie barges in on Susan's visit with elegant Irene (Opal Alladin), he overhears his wife declaring that God will help anyone. Before he passes out, he's inspired — and in the morning coerces Susan to try family life while he gives up drinking. If he slips up, he'll grant her a divorce.

The simple story has real emotional suspense. Deenihan is a bit subdued, although it works for his character. Katie Firth as Charlotte, who quietly loves Barrie, is appealing. Susan's journey toward redemption is poignant, even cathartic. Nathan Heverin's scenic design turns the elegant rooms into cycloramas, and Clint Ramos' period costumes add atmosphere. Susan and God is a well-made play with depth and heart.

Presented by and at the Mint Theater Company 311 W. 43rd St., NYC. June 18-July 16. Tue.-Thu., 7 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 2 p.m. (212) 315-0231. Casting by Stuart Howard, Amy Schecter, and Paul Hardt.

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