Monday, March 20, 2023
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Time and the Conways - starring a superficial Elizabeth McGovern

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

This Roundabout revival of J. B. Priestley’s three act drama is just adequate. And seems longer than it actually is. There are some high points and an equal amount of low as directed by Rebecca Taichman who does her best with the static script that has not been produced in New York for 38 years.

It’s in the tradition of a well-made three act play with a slight variation: Beginning. End. Middle.

It takes time for the Conway family saga celebrating the 21st birthday of would be novelist Kay (a lovely albeit distracted Charlotte Parry) to take off in the upper class neutral living room set by Neil Patel which has the look of old money carefully decorated so as not to flaunt its wealth.

The set itself takes off after the misfired first act which takes place in 1919 as we are transitioned into Act II when the same but different room drops in from the rafters.

It is now 1937 and Kay’s family once again is summoned to meet. Not merely to celebrate her birth but to bemoan the fact that Mummy (an unimpressive Elizabeth McGovern giving a superficial portrait of Mrs. Conway; at times over the top) has squandered all their wealth and future inheritances on having fun.

Is she being brutally honest or is she just a bitch? Has Mr. Priestley fashioned her after another beautiful spendthrift Madame Ravnevsky of The Cherry Orchard?

Act III (here at the American Airlines Theatre Act II) has us return to the party of 1919 to witness what went wrong with each of the characters – of which there are many.

We are led from a naturalistic drama to a metaphysical one that tries to explain that the past and present and future co-exist and that life should be an adventure and that some can innately tell what will happen or remember what did happen. According to Blake and J.W. Dunne. That’s great if you believe all that stuff.

The British accents are all over the place. And that first half hour of sisters Hazel (Anna Camp) Carol (Anna Baryshnikov) the Socialist bent Madge (Brooke Bloom) chirping away as they put on parts of costumes to do whatever in the next room is enough to have you scurrying up the aisle. But they are young and we need to get some exposition out of the way.

Thank goodness for Gabriel Ebert as the awkward and shy and levelheaded Alan their eldest brother and Matthew James Thomas as the handsome uniformed brash and strutting Robin – Mummy’s favorite.

Into the mix arrives the financial advisor Gerald Thornton (an excellent Alfredo Narciso) who brings along an arriviste (an impressive Steven Boyer) who wants to wed Hazel who dislikes the “creature” intensely.

Last but not least is Joan Helford (portrayed beautifully by Cara Ricketts) who has her eyes on Robin while Alan has his eyes on her.

It’s an uneven production where the set will be probably remembered above all.

Through November 26th.

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Photo: Jeremy Daniel