TIME AND THE CONWAYS

Elizabeth McGovern, Matthew James Thomas, Cara Ricketts and Anna Camp in Roundabout Theatre Company’s TIME AND THE CONWAYS. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

*** 1/2

In TIME AND THE CONWAYS, by J.B. Priestley of AN INSPECTOR CALLS, a fatherless family of siblings, led by their capricious Mother, throw a birthday party in 1919 Britain at the end of the war. The play then makes a jump to 1937 where we can see the effect of time on the characters and the result is not heartwarming.

Director Rebecca Taichman, who won a Tony for last season’s INDECENT, once again shows her flair for theatricality with a mise en scène that fits the melancholy action elegantly. There is a Set change that is so achingly mournful, I won’t easily forget it.

Nevertheless, this is not a perfect revival. Ms. Taichman concentrates on the grand illusion while the cast is sidelined. The performances are uneven and some of the revelations are diluted. This is a charming play with inventive staging, so I am happy I saw it, but like the Conways themselves, I only wish it had fulfilled its potential.

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JUNK

JUNK at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.

***

Imagine a dystopian society where everyone’s sole motivation is greed and the only god anyone worships is Money. No, this isn’t a Margaret Atwood cautionary tale about the future, it’s JUNK, Ayad Akhtar‘s take on 1980s indulgence and the subsequent financial collapse. Using a funhouse mirror set, this is a play about only seeing the world thru the distortion of avarice.

I loved Ayad Akhtar‘s 2012 play DISGRACED, which delved deep into identity as defined thru religion and race, told in very modern and bold terms. You can still see Mr. Akhtar’s wit in JUNK, but with more than quadruple the number of characters his skill at showing the many conflicting layers of personality gets narrowed to just the lead, Robert Merkin. Merkin is an obvious swap for IRL Michael Milken, the Junk Bond King, famous for hostile takeovers and insider trading.

Disappointingly, this is a story we have seen in MANY plays and movies. There are no real surprises, until the last few minutes of the play. So although the pace is quick and the text is smart, it is an old story that plays out as expected. And if he mansplained “Junk Bonds” one more time, I would have walked out.

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A RAISIN IN THE SUN at Two River Theater

The whole company of A RAISIN IN THE SUN at Two River Theater.

*****

A robust, crackling production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN is currently playing at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ, but you need to hurry if you are going to catch this modern classic brought to electrifying life by a superb company under the adept direction of Carl Cofield. This production closes October 8th.

There isn’t a weak link in this cast led by Brenda Pressley and Brandon J. Dirden and there isn’t a false emotion in this thrilling production. Once again Two River shows its strength as a Producer of classic drama. Book your ticket now!

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