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The Voice of the Turtle

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

The story of The Voice of the Turtle is perhaps more familiar (and less shocking) now than it might have been when the play premiered on Broadway in 1943. John Van Druten's show deals with the unabashedly sexual dalliance of a serviceman on leave in New York City with an actress he meets there.

In their new production of the show, the Mint Theater Company has done an excellent job of capturing the sense of the time. The show exudes a wonderful 40s flavor, from the colorful apartment set of Nathan Heverin and the costumes of Theresa Squire, to the performers themselves. Nick Toren as Bill (the Serviceman), Elizabeth Bunch as Sally (his love interest), and Megan Byrne as Olive (her friend) look as though they stepped right from the 40s to the present.

Van Druten did an excellent job of defining his characters' emotions, avoiding the turgid romantic tale it could have been all too easy to write. And, when viewed on its own, the play makes perfect sense from a 2001 perspective. Very little seems out of place; there are times The Voice of the Turtle feels as if it could have been written today.

That's the most curious thing about the show, its amazing sense of not being dated. Was The Voice of the Turtle progressive for its time, or have the last few decades of television so redefined what audiences are willing to accept, that the show has simply lost whatever bite it may have had in the social climate of the time? Most likely it's a little of both.

The only time the play really falters is in the third act, when it takes on some situations that resemble modern situation comedies a little too closely. This is also the only time that Carl Forsman's direction seems less than very strong; he doesn't do much to make some clunky moments, such as trying to sneak out Bill's cap so he can make a surprise entrance, believable.

Aside from that, Forsman keeps the pace quick and gets strong performances from his actors. Toren and Bunch have some real chemistry together and come across well throughout. Byrne usually seems a little more strained (which may be due to her significantly less stage time), but can frequently make a substantial impact, usually comedic, of her own when it's called for.

The Mint Theater Company has done quite well by a script that, despite its age, remains fresh, warm, and funny.

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Mint Theater Company
The Voice of the Turtle
by John Van Druten
Through December 30
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with two intermissions
Mint Theater
311 West 43rd Street, Fifth Floor
Tickets: (212) 315-0231