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A CurtainUp Review
A CurtainUp Review,Time and the Conways
Review from the Shaw Festival
Time and the Conways
by Joe Green
What a fascinating play! And what a contrast to the Festival's other British "gentry" family play, Noel Coward's Easy Virtue. Where the Coward piece is a drawing room comedy with serious overtones, Priestly's 1937 drama focuses more profoundly on the Conway dysfunctional family, without even the leavening device of Coward's laconic father figure to balance, at least to some extent, the matriarch who manipulates all surrounding her.
Time and the Conways is set in a most interesting structure, anticipating the non-linear shapes of playwrights that were to follow and taking its cue from earlier experiments in expressionism. Act One is set in 1919, just after the Great War (in which Conway pere died); Act Two flashes forward two decades to the post-depression mid-thirties; Act Three returns to 1919, but now the audience perceives the actions of the family in light of what we know will happen. A rather neat and thorough use of dramatic irony woven into the very fabric of the play.
Priestly's structure allows the action of the play to make explicit social commentary about what we now call "the period between the wars". The collapse of industry in the town where the Conways were once a solid part of the upper middle class has left Mrs. Conway close to penury, mightily aided by the profligate behavior of her son as well as her own unwillingness to face the realities of the contemporary world. When Priestly takes us back to 1919 and the return of Robin from the War, our foreknowledge of what lies ahead serves creates an heightened tension to close the evening.
The Shaw company is in top form for this production. Of particular note are Nora McLellan in the pivotal role of Mrs. Conway, Peter Krantz as Alan, the unassuming older brother, Bruce Davies as Robin, the prodigal and profligate son, and Jan Alexandra Smith as Joan Helford, the outsider who marries Robin and comes to regret it.
Neil Munro's direction perfectly mirrors the tone and action of the play. Shaw Festival devotees will warmly remember his You Can't Take It With You and The Seagull among numerous other productions. Munro is also directing this season's Lord of the Flies. And the design team of Brian Perchaluk (sets), David Boechler (costumes) and Ereca Hassell (lighting) have richly dressed this well received production of a too-infrequently produced play.
|TIME AND THE CONWAYS|
by J.B. Priestly
Director: Neil Munro
(in order of appearance): Hazel - Jane Perry; Carol - Susie Burnett; Alan - Peter Krantz; Madge - Laurie Paton; Kay - Jenny Wright; Mrs. Conway - Nora McLellan; Joan Helford - Jan Alexandra Smith; Gerald Thorton - Douglas Hughes; Earnest Beavers - Simon Bradbury; Robin - Bruce Davies
Set Designer: Brian Perchaluk
Costume Designer: David Boechler
Lighting Designer: Ereca Hassell
Festival Theatre at the Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Festival Website - http://www.shawfest.sympatico.ca
Running: April 13 to October 28, 2000
Running Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes, including two intermissions
Review based on June 23, 2000 evening performance
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