Time and the Conways

‘TIME AND THE CONWAYS’: (left to right) Elizabeth McGovern, Charlotte Parry & Anna Baryshnikov. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

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TIME AND THE CONWAYS
Written by J. B. Priestley
Directed by Rebecca Taichman
Through November 26, 2017
American Airlines Theater
227 West 42nd Street
(212-719-1300), www.RoundaboutTheatre.org


By David NouNou

Written and performed on the London stage in 1937, J. B. Priestley uses the basis of time travel to showcase a family’s life and changes. Starting in 1919, the first part of Act 1 shows us the giddy, frivolous lives of an upper-middle-class British family (the Conways) at the end of World War 1.

On this particular night, the Conways are celebrating Kay’s (Charlotte Parry) 21st birthday. Kay is one of six children blessed to Mrs. Conway (Elizabeth McGovern) who is now a widow. Kay wants to be an author/writer and is unsuccessful in her endeavors. Her siblings consist of a doltish older brother, Alan (Gabriel Ebert) who is a clerk in a dead-end job; she has a younger sister, the beauty, Hazel (Anna Camp) who is vapid and only cares about her looks and pleasures; another sister, the Socialist and spinsterly Madge (Brooke Bloom); the youngest sister, the lovely childlike Carol ( Anna Baryshnikov); and the returning soldier and golden boy, Robin (Matthew James Thomas). Tonight, Kay is orchestrating her party and is assigning charade duties with costumes to her mother and siblings for the pleasure of the guests that have been invited.

In the middle of these proceedings, part two of Act 1 comes to view. With the wonderfully designed set by Neil Patel, the current living room fades backward and from the ceiling descends a less ornate version of it and the year is 1938, a year later than when the play was presented. Kay has returned from London to her home by the request of her mother. Kay is a writer for a magazine that interviews movie stars who visit England. She has come home on the day that coincides with her 40th birthday. Also, there are her siblings. In the ensuing 19 years, “time” hasn’t been that good to the Conways. Only Alan, the dolt, has the good sense and serenity to take things as they come and flow with the tide. This upheaval has disastrous consequences for the rest of the siblings. Hazel has married a rich bully, Ernest Beevers (Steven Boyer), who takes vengeance on her and the Conways. Madge has become a spinsterish school headmistress. Robin has become a drunkard, deserted his wife and family, and failed in all his endeavors. Worst of all is Mrs. Conway, who is about to lose her home and her children’s inheritance.

Act II goes back to 1919 to reveal what led to this downfall. Of course, the end of the war has a lot to do with it, due to social economics and the changes that are taking place around the world to which the Conways are totally blithe. The impoverished Beevers, who came to court Hazel. was ridiculed by her and the family. Similarly, Gerald Thornton, the family solicitor (Alfredo Narciso), who was only seen as their employee, now controls the purse strings. The uniqueness of Time and the Conways isn’t just the reversal of fortunes, it’s also about how the frivolous and feckless who look down on people create the monsters that unseat them.

The acting is uneven by mostly everyone. Elizabeth McGovern, as Mrs. Conway, is unconvincing as her younger self in Act I, some of her children look older than her. However, as her older and hardened self of 1938, she is riveting and heartbreaking. Steven Boyer, who was spellbinding in Hand to God, now in a much smaller role, is frightening as the belligerent Beevers who changes from an eager wooer to a maniacal bully to exact revenge is perfect. Charlotte Parry, as Kay, is charming and engaging and it never ceases to amaze me how Gabriel Ebert can play a dolt and be able to steal every scene whether here, in Matilda or Therese Raquin.

Time and The Conways
does have a moral to it; frivolity and fecklessness have a price, it’s not all about the fun, parties and wishful dreaming. Pertinent to our current situation, but in reverse, enjoy yourself now, make every minute count, because World War III may be around the corner.

 

Edited by Scott Harrah
Published October 15, 2017
Reviewed at October 14, 2017 press performance.

Time and the Conways

‘TIME AND THE CONWAYS’: (left to right) Matthew James Thomas, Gabriel Ebert, Anna Baryshnikov. Charlotte Parry, Elizabeth McGovern & Anna Camp. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Time and the Conways

‘TIME AND THE CONWAYS’: (left to right) Gabriel Ebert, Anna Baryshnikov, Anna Camp, Elizabeth McGovern & Matthew James Thomas. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Time and the Conways

‘TIME AND THE CONWAYS’: (left to right) Matthew James Thomas, Gabriel Ebert, Steven Boyer & Charlotte Parry. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

‘TIME AND THE CONWAYS’: (left to right) Anna Baryshnikov, Charlotte Parry, Matthew James Thomas & Anna Camp. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

TIme and the Conways

‘TIME AND THE CONWAYS’: (left to right) Elizabeth McGovern, Brooke Bloom & Charlotte Parry. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Time and the Conways

‘TIME AND THE CONWAYS’: (left to right) Anna Baryshnikov, Charlotte Parry & Anna Camp. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

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