by Peter Hall April 22, 2017, 12:02 pm
THE BASICS: THE WINSLOW BOY, a 1946 play by Terence Rattigan, presented by the Irish Classical Theatre Company, skillfully directed by Brian Cavanagh, starring Robert Rutland, Kate LoConti, Pamela Rose Mangus, Matt Witten, Kevin Craig, Ben Michael Moran, Todd Benzin, Lisa Ludwig, introducing Gianna Palermo, and Collan Zimmerman as “the boy” opened April 21 and runs through May 14, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 & 7:30, Sundays at 2, at 625 Main Street (the Andrews Theatre). (853-ICTC) www.irishclassicaltheatre.com Cozy full bar, snacks, coffee. Run time 2 hours 45 minutes with one 10-minute intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: A masterful blend of drama with laugh lines, underneath it all THE WINSLOW BOY is a romantic comedy. Set in England before WWI (think “Downton Abbey”) we meet somewhat rigid patriarch Arthur Winslow toasting his suffragette daughter Catherine’s engagement to John Watherstone (son of a prominent military man) when he learns that the Osborne Naval College (a Royal Naval Academy under the aegis of “The Admiralty”) has expelled his 14-year-old son, Ronnie, for stealing a five-shilling postal order. Coming around to the lad’s innocence, Arthur Winslow stakes his modest family’s fortunes (he is a retired banker, not a lord), his personal health, his older son’s Oxford connections, familial peace, and Catherine’s marriage prospects to pursue justice. Under English law, Admiralty decisions, even involving petty theft, were official acts of the government, which could not be sued without the attorney general responding to a petition of “Let right be done.” And so the family engages Sir Robert Morton, a famous barrister and Member of Parliament. This is not a courtroom drama, although we do follow the case. All of the action takes place on a single set in the Winslow family home which is appropriate since the play really is character driven, with some of Buffalo’s best actors portraying those characters.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Opening night had all the energy one expects and none of the problems that occasionally occur. Everyone was delightfully well rehearsed. Thank you Brian Cavanagh and Irish Classical! My only complaint is that the audience was too reticent to laugh, at least early on. Come on, people! The characters on stage are stiff upper lip, God and Crown, veddy veddy “we don’t laugh, we’re British” but you’re not. The laugh lines by Terence Rattigan are hilarious. Let yourself go.
It was a fine triangle of superb theatrical skill, and the other characters rose to that level.
The performances are first order in this penultimate play of the ICTC season. (Next up, by the way, is HAY FEVER by Noel Coward where you really must be ready to laugh.) Robert Rutland as Arthur Winslow, the father, is a commanding force on the stage who ages and reveals more and more of his character most convincingly. Kate LoConti is always “in the moment” in the difficult role (difficult in real life too) of being a modern woman in a traditional family. And Matt Witten, with his big boomy voice was excellent as Sir Robert Morton, the barrister. It was a fine triangle of superb theatrical skill, and the other characters rose to that level. Personally, I loved seeing Ben Michael Moran again as a clueless English twit (he was marvelous in AN IDEAL HUSBAND). Mr. Moran should guard against type casting, he is so good in these roles. And Kevin Craig has the insouciant ne’er-do-well, but ne’er-do-much-else-either pampered Oxford student down to a tee. Lisa Ludwig deserves a special mention for taking what might seem to be a small role (the maid, Violet) and recognizing it for what it really is.
Amanda Sharpe was the dialect coach for this production, and while I can’t speak to the accuracy of the accents (we’ll leave that to Professor Henry Higgins) I can tell you that they were believable and utterly consistent throughout the evening, which is no small accomplishment, especially in moments of great emotional distress. Well done.
While this performance runs almost three hours, this skillfully crafted play keeps your attention and affection for every minute. Playwright Terence Rattigan has learned many things from George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde and has reinvented them for our time.
Photo: Gene Witkowski
RATING: 4-1/2 BUFFALOS (out of 5)
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!