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WALKING DOWN BROADWAY Mint Theater, 311 W. 43rd St.; (212) 315-0231. Through Nov. 6.

THE Mint Theater Com pany made its estim able reputation by excavating long-forgotten plays, but their latest act of resuscitation is of Frankenstein-like proportions: "Walking Down Broadway," which the acclaimed novelist Dawn Powell wrote nearly 75 years ago, has never before been produced.

Now being given its world premiere at the Mint's tiny, third-floor space on West 43rd Street, this compelling 1931 comedy/drama turns out to far outshine its modern off-Broadway equivalents.

A harder-edged precursor to "My Sister Eileen," this play concerns the romantic adventures of Margie (Christine Albright) and Elsie (Amanda Jones), two young sisters from Ohio who've come to the big city. Lonely and bereft of male company, they encounter two men, Dewey (Ben Roberts) and Chick (Denis Butkus), while walking down Broadway one hot summer evening, and take them back to their shared room at their Riverside Drive rooming house.

The flirty Elsie takes a shine to the lighthearted Dewey, while the more serious-minded Marge and Chick begin a tentative romance leading to dramatic consequences that probably would have shocked audiences of the time. Adding comic relief to the proceedings are two older, more world-weary characters: the wisecracking, peroxide-blond model next door (Carol Halstead) and the boys' vain, ladies' man roommate (Antony Hagopian).

Full of incisive characterizations and realistic dialogue, the play feels relevant even today. The Mint's production can hardly be faulted, with director Steven Williford eliciting mostly sterling performances from his youthful ensemble.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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