by Mary Best
Posted April 23, 2017
Opening night of a play can be a rocky one. Missteps, line stumbles and low energy often plague a cast kicking off a multi-week run. However, the cast of “The Winslow Boy” at Irish Classical Theatre Company delivered a flawless performance Friday night, showcasing some of the best Buffalo theater has to offer.
Brian Cavanagh directs this Terence Rattigan play, which lets us peek behind the curtain at the English Winslow family in the years leading up to World War I – ironclad patriarch Arthur, mother Grace, passionate feminist Catherine and brothers Dickie and Ronnie. Despite a stellar track record of being the favorite son, Ronnie gets expelled from Osborne Naval College after being accused of stealing a five-shilling postal order. The story unfolds into many layers in the months that follow the incident, detailing each Winslow’s personal sacrifices and conflicts that result from pursing a trial to prove Ronnie’s innocence and, as they say, “Let right be done.”
As an ensemble, these 10 actors drive a high-energy performance, which isn’t always easy in a presumed courtroom drama that never leaves a sitting room. Despite a timeline that spans nearly two years, the audience never feels left out or like something is missing.
Kate LoConti portrays the intelligent, no-nonsense Catherine. She’s strong in all of her choices, and lets us see the detailed thoughts of every conflict Catherine faces, including having to choose between her fiancé, John Watherstone (a suave Ben Michael Moran) and supporting the progressive ideals motivating a trial for her brother. Her unwavering commitment to the women’s rights and suffragette movement is especially relevant to our currently politically charged society, making her an even more worthy heroine to root for.
The best scene of the entire play comes at the end of act one, when the reputable attorney Sir Robert Morton arrives to question Ronnie about taking his case. From the moment Matt Witten enters the theater as this shrewd character, the tension in the room triples. He is immediately captivating and powerful in a divine performance.
Robert Rutland portrays the strong-willed patriarch of the Winslow family – Arthur. His comedic delivery is excellent, and as his character’s health declines throughout the story, he never lets go of an ounce of strength. It’s rare for a character to evoke so much emotion without wearing their heart on their sleeve, but Rutland does this terrifically.
I’d be remiss not to call out Todd Benzin as the endearing Desmond Curry. As a man who’s always been in love with Catherine, he’s careful to bring a shred of sadness and disappointment that’s all too real for those of us possessing unrequited love. His scenes are especially nice to watch.
Collan Zimmerman, Lisa Ludwig, Pamela Rose Mangus, Kevin Craig and Gianna Palermo round out this A-team of players, making sure not a single moment in this funny and polarizing story is lost.
Dyan Burlingame’s set is rich with detail and perfectly suits Irish Classical’s intimate 360-degree space. Costumes by Dixon Reynolds were spot-on, adding a layer of personality to each character and leaving the audience anxious to see more.
The production features a fine-tuned company of actors giving high caliber performances, making “The Winslow Boy” a truly delightful night out at the theater.