Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Winslow Boy is Jolly Good Fun and then Gets Amazing

The Winslow Boy begins as a trifle, a play that hasn’t be revived on Broadway for 60 years because it doesn’t have much to say.  It is an English drawing room comedy / drama about manners, honesty and reputation.  It seems so dated that the audience enjoys it as a museum piece; nicely designed, beautifully acted, cleverly humorous and utterly removed from the present day.  But slowly, so slowly that you don’t even notice until the second act, The Winslow Boy evolves.  Intended or not it acquires new depth in our age,  It is about standing up to faceless bureaucracy when it is almost impossible and always useless.  The analogy is subtle, but it is there.  And your heart goes out to these hopeless romantics, fighting for justice in a hostile venue.
Spencer Davis Milford, Zachary Booth, Roger Rees, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio & Alessandro Nivola
The story is fairly straightforward.  Youngest child Ronnie Winslow has been expelled from Naval College for theft.  Father Arthur Winslow fights to clear his son’s good name.  The fight for a fair trail is waged against an entrenched military command on the eve of World War I.  The military, the government and the public all believe there are more important things to do that quibble over a boy that might or might have been treated fairly by a military school.

But for Arthur Winslow, his good name is at risk.  Arthur has worked his entire life for his family, position and name only to retire and have his family’s reputation tarnished.  Accepting this stain, which he feels is false, is something he cannot bear.   The story of The Winslow Boy grows as Arthur carries on the fight long past sensible people would give up.

As Arthur Winslow, Roger Rees is great.  His command of the family is masterful, and everyone agrees with him, until the consequences start adding up.  The monetary cost to fight this is large, and imposes hardships on everyone in the family.  The emotional costs are even more dire.  Mr. Rees does a great job allow Arthur’s motivation to be more than just vanity.  The show takes place over the course of 2 years, and Rees’ Arthur falls more ill as time progresses.  This will be his last great endeavor, his last chance to make a mark.
Roger Rees, Michael Cumpsty, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio & Charlotte Parry

As Grace, Arthur’s wife, Mary  Elizabeth : is very good.  She keeps a firm eye on her husband, her children and the house.  Even when she doesn’t fully understand or agree with her husband, she manages.

But the standouts in the show are Charlotte Parry as daughter Catherine and Allesandro Nivola as solicitor Sir Robert Morton.  Together or apart, these two actors tear up the stage.  Ms. Parry’s Catherine is a complex young woman of principals, with a capital P.  She is a suffragette, yet lovingly engaged to a young military man.  She is the emotional rock of the family, and just as strident in their defense as Mr. Winslow.  Miss Catherine is not one to be crossed lightly.

Allesandro Nivola plays a very upper class Sir Robert Morton, solicitor and member of the House of Commons, who takes on the case of Ronnie Winslow.  Sir Robert’s diction and his style are impeccable, his bearing imperious.  Sir Robert takes over the case swiftly, with motives that are not clear.

Each of these actors alone is wonderful, but watching their scenes together is splendid.  Sir Robert’s introduction into The Winslow Boy presses the pace forward and Catherine Winslow throws herself into the maelstrom.   Ms. Parry and Mr. Nivola articulate positions that are neither opposed nor complimentary.  Neither is entirely sure of the other, but both have Mr. Winslow’s full support.

Lindsay Posner directs this brought over from The Old Vic in London.  He does a wonderful job with the pace of the show, which progresses organically.  The first few scenes play out more slowly than current American audiences are familiar with, and then the show moves along, gather speed and intensity, without losing the humor or emotion.  Excellent.
The Winslow Boy
Playwright: Terence Rattigan
Director: Lindsay Posner
Cast: Michael Cumpsty, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Alessandro Nivola, Roger Rees, Charlotte Parry, Zachary Booth, Spencer Davis Milford, Chandler William, Henny Russell

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