Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
An Inspector Calls
Also see Jeffrey's review of On Golden Pond
Priestley has spun a psychological thriller that is so beautifully written that, as the realities are revealed toward the end of the intermissionless 90-minute evening, one can only chuckle to oneself while thinking, "of course!" While there are too many spoilers to divulge, the story is rather basic. An upscale British family, the Birlings, circa 1912, is celebrating the engagement of their flighty daughter Sheila (Charlotte Bydwell) to the handsome, successful Gerald Croft (Jeremy Webb). The parents, Sybil (Angie Radosh) and Arthur (Rob Donahoe), and their heavy-drinking son Eric (Cliff Burgess) are having the time of their lives, as only the stiff-upper-lip, patronizing, condescending upper Brit classes can do.
Interrupting their dinner enters Inspector Goole (James Andreassi), who is looking into the apparent suicide of a young woman whom each family member is connected to, unbeknownst to each of them. Are they guilty? Who is guilty? Is everything as it seems to the naked eye? The answer is a resounding "no!" And I will reveal no more.
Upon entering the theatre you see two windows and a front door hanging on wires that represent the entrance to Birling Manor. Servants are setting up for dinner while the audience finds their seats. The windows and door are flown up mid first scene and we are in the grand dining room of an upper-class family in turn of the century England. Scenic designer Victor A. Becker has created a gorgeous motif using several rather than many set pieces (watch those gorgeous chandeliersthey have a life of their own).
The women's costumes (the men are all in formal evening tuxes) are perfect, thanks to costume designer Tracy Dorman. It's a pleasure to see a play where the lighting and sound are stars of the evening. Marty Mets has designed sound and music that "speak" volumes, and Kirk Bookman has created a lighting plot that must be seen to be appreciated.
J. Barry Lewis is one of the most prolific and talented directors in the Southern Florida area and he has created a thrilling evening of theatre. Of course, the proof is in the casting. The two standout performances are from Rob Donahoe and Jeremy Webb as the patriarch and the fiancé. Of the cast, they best mastered believable British accents. I am being picky, but if accents are going to be done, they should sound authentic.
Charlotte Bydwell does terrific work as the spoiled (or, of the time, "spoilt") daughter who can bring laughs strictly from her character's exasperation. Cliff Burgess, as the guilty (or is he?) son, is charismatic and likeable, even if his character is not. Not an easy task to pull off. Angie Radosh is haughty and thoroughly unlikeable as the matriarch, and that is a compliment not a criticism. Radosh, who looks like a cobra about to strike at any moment, comes into her own as the revelations and admissions come flying.
But haven't I forgotten someone? Ah, yes, the titular Inspector Goole. Played by Mr. Andreassi, he is the most mysterious of individuals. At first I was put off a bit by his, and Mr. Lewis', interpretation. I wondered if an inspector in 1912 would be as animated, frenetic and emotionally demonstrative as Mr. Andreassi is, and all I can say is that I was wrong and his interpretation was spot on. What a role! Congrats to Andreassi and his perceptive director.
At the start of this review, I remembered how the house and the rain played very important parts in the London production I had seen. Suffice to say that there are two "coup de théâtres" that I cannot describe.
My admiration for what the Maltz and its Artistic Director, Andrew Kato, are doing is boundless. They closed a musical last week that has been seen on every high school and community theatre stage, Hairspray, and are now running a rarity ("Priestly? Really?") that makes one think, fantasize and appreciate what true theatre is about.
This production only runs for two weeks and they are advertising that the run is almost completely sold out. The public has spoken. With Mr. Priestly front and center could Pinter be far behind? Let's hope not.
An Inspector Calls, through February 18, 2018, at The Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 East Indiantown Rd. Jupiter FL. For information and tickets, call 561-575-2223 or visit www.jupitertheatre.org.