Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

The Voysey Inheritance

Also see John's review of Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte

Terry Hardcastle and Peter Haig
The Caldwell Theatre presents David Mamet's adaptation of Henry Granville-Barker's play, The Voysey Inheritance. Though written over 100 years ago in 1905, the plot seems ripped from today's headlines. The Caldwell brings us a timely morality play that examines the themes of greed and honor centering around a ponzi scheme that is all too reminiscent of the recent Bernie Madoff scandal.

Playwright Henry Granville-Barker was born in 1877. He began his career in the theatre as an actor originating the role of Marchbanks in the George Bernard Shaw play Candida. He was also a producer of George Bernard Shaw's early plays, and established the first modern repertory company in the English-speaking world. In addition to The Voysey Inheritance, his other works include Prunella, Waste and The Madras House. Though known for his gifted dialogue, his plays are not as well known as those of his contemporaries George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and J.M. Barrie. He has seemingly been rediscovered with rewritten adaptations of his work recently being produced in London, Baltimore and New York.

David Mamet's plays include Oleanna, Speed-the-Plow, Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo and Sexual Perversity in Chicago. Mamet's work has been compared to that of Samuel Beckett, and has earned him both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize. He is known for his strong male characters, a naturalistic writing style that focuses on the wordplay of street jargon, and scripts that are often generously peppered with expletives. While The Voysey Inheritance is missing much of Mamet's coarse language and biting wit, he has shaped the dialogue to seem more natural by modern standards. Mamet has also trimmed quite a bit as the original five-act play ran for four hours, and is now a two-act play of some two hours and fifteen minutes.

The Voysey Inheritance centers around Edward Voysey who is partners with his father in a law firm that specializes in managing trusts and estates. After Edward discovers some alarming account discrepancies, his father confesses that he has for years been using the clients' money to invest in the stock market. There is enough money for clients to continue to receive the equivalent of the interest on their capital, but in many cases the capital itself is gone. His father has moved money from one account to another in order to pay out the occasional account in full, and has managed to escape detection only because major clients have not asked to close out their accounts at a time when he could not shuffle around the money to cover it. Edward's shock is compounded when he is told that his grandfather, who founded the company, managed their client's accounts in the same way. When his father passes away, and he is left in charge of the family business, Edward finds his personality is one that will not allow him to continue this fraudulent way of conducting business. He is faced with the realistic consequences of what exposure would mean to his family. It would forever change their way of life, their place in society and the family honor, though ironically it is the ill-gotten money itself that has given them all these things. Each member of his family has a differing view of whether to continue, correct or expose the situation at hand. Edward diligently starts on a path of righting the clients accounts, but is undone when one of the clients with the largest accounts in his firm wishes to withdraw all his money and close his account. To add insult to injury, the client is a long time friend of Edwards' deceased father who feels he can't trust Edward as he did his father—the very man who emptied his accounts.

Set designer Tim Bennett has provided a lovely Edwardian drawing-room as the setting for this production. Terry Hardcastle is formidable as Edward. He has volumes of dialogue with no time off stage. An admirably talented cast of actors grace the stage, though some get little time on stage at all. Lourelene Snedeker as Edward's dotty mother, Katherine Amadeo as Edward's lovely if spoiled younger sister Ethel Voysey, and Kathryn Lee Johnston as Edward's moral older sister are barely on at all. Jim Ballard is well cast as the blustering Major Booth Voysey, as is Cliff Burgess as the ne'er-do-well artist Hugh Voysey struggling with guilt over the money upon which he lives. The accent work of some of the cast needs a bit of polish but this can be quickly forgotten. Despite clean pacing, the dry nature of the piece makes the play seem a bit long and tedious. There is something in the writing that makes it hard to empathize with the characters, and the ending is just weak enough to actually make one think "is it over?". Some undeniably wonderful acting moments exist between Hardcastle and Peter Haig (Mr. Voysey), and Hardcastle and Dennis Creaghan (Mr. George Booth), because they are fine actors and have been well directed. Though The Voysey Inheritance may not be everyone's cup of tea, the production at the Caldwell Theatre features some impeccable acting.

The Voysey Inheritance will be appearing through December 13, 2009, at the Caldwell Theatre. The Caldwell Theatre Company is a professional theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. The Caldwell Theatre Company is designated by the State of Florida as a Cultural Institution and receives funding from the State of Florida through the Florida Department of State, the Florida Arts Council and the Division of Cultural Affairs. The Caldwell Theatre Company is located in the Count De Hoernle Theatre at 7901 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton, FL. Performance times are Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM, and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For information and/or tickets you may contact them by phone at 561-241-7432 or online at

Edward Voysey: Terry Hardcastle*
Alice Maitland: Marta Reiman*
Mrs. Voysey: Lourelene Snedeker*
Mr. George Booth: Dennis Creaghan*
Mr. Voysey: Peter Haig*
Peacey: Dan Leonard*
Major Booth Voysey: Jim Ballard*
Reverend Evan Colpus: John Felix*
Ethel Voysey: Katherine Amadeo
Honor Voysey: Kathryn Lee Johnston*
Trenchard Voysey: Stephen G. Anthony*
Hugh Voysey: Cliff Burgess

Director: Clive Cholerton
Scenic Design: Tim Bennett
Lighting Design: Thomas Salzman
Costume Design: Alberto Arroyo
Production Manager: Sean Lawson
Stage Manager: Robert Herrle*

*Indicates member of the Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Photo: Sean Lawson

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere