by Michael Rabice, broadwayworld.com
Apr. 24, 2017
A family’s desire for wealth is at odds with its desire for honor in Terence Rattigan’s intriguing THE WINSLOW BOY now on stage at the Irish Classical Theatre.
Set in Kensington, England in the early 1900’s, Rattigan has written of the Upper Middle Class Winslow family and their 3 children. Youngest Ronnie (Collan Zimmerman) has returned abruptly from Military Academy having been accused of stealing a 5 shilling Postal Note and discharged from the school. His sister Catherine is the 20-something suffragette and his elder brother Dickie is floundering away at University
The patriarch of the family, Arthur, is brilliantly played by stage veteran Robert Rutland, remembered for much of his great work at Studio Arena Theatre. Rutland’s intense portrayal of the controlling father/husband anchors the drama, never allowing anyone to doubt who runs the family. His fixation with wealth is cemented as he interviews Catherine’s intended fiance, John Watherstone, played by Ben Michael Moran. More interested in the young man’s finances than his love for his daughter, Arthur lays out his own financial status while probing into the Watherstone’s fortune. Rutland’s brusque manner and endlessly fidgety fingers created an impatient character, who becomes a man possessed once he convinces himself that his son has been wrongly accused. His quest is to clear his son’s name while ensuring the family’s character remains untarnished.
Mr. Zimmerman performance as the titular character, under the guidance of Director Brian Cavanagh, often comes across as an aloof, immature teen not fully grasping the gravity of his predicament. Rattigan writes him as an unworldly 14 year old who desires nothing more than to enjoy his teenage years, more interested in attending a movie than attending his own court case. Zimmerman’s soft spoken voice and timidness at first seemed problematic, but later these attributes worked in his favor as the naive boy accused of a petty act.
Pamela Rose Mangus shines as the mother Grace. Her nuanced performance was utterly convincing as she often deferred to her husband’s wishes, but later in a face to face stand off with him, elucidates the toll her husband’s desire to right Ronnie’s name has taken on the fabric of her family, including the small family fortune. Ms. Mangus is a treat to watch on stage, fully embodying a woman raised in Victorian society and lovingly overprotective of her youngest child.
Rattigan has created a multi layered character in Catherine, brought to life by ICTC favorite Kate LoConti. Her no nonsense personality often mirrors that of her father, and LoConti revels in Catherine’s desire for equal rights coupled with her aging need to marry. It is clear that her impending marriage only superficially appears to be a true romance, further enhanced by Mr. Moran’s straight forward, dead pan line readings of his purported love for her. This only strengthens the fact that the two would only have a loveless relationship.
Kevin Craig is thoroughly enjoying himself on stage as Dickie, living the carefree life too much for his father’s liking. His levity is palpable and in great contrast to his father’s consternation. Local favorite Lisa Ludwig makes the most of the slightly wacky but loving housekeeper, Violet. Todd Benzin as Desmond, a family lawyer friend who yearns for Catherine, gives a poignant performance as the man past his prime who would unconditionally love Catherine, if she only would consider him.
The climax of Act I introduces us to the pivotal Sir Robert Morton, the high profile barrister engaged by the family to represent Ronnie and have his case heard in the High Court. Matt Witten is brilliant as the seasoned lawyer, building great intensity in his questioning of Ronnie that leaves the family, as well as the audience stunned and captivated by his brilliant mind. More perplexing was his initial encounter with Catherine, where innuendos of a prior relationship never became fully fleshed out in the script. Nonetheless, Witten and LoConti share great chemistry, which may later be realized after the play’s conclusion.
Evocative sound design by Tom Makar amplified the simple setting, as well as Dixon Reynolds lovely period specific costumes.
The second Act allows Rattigan to deepen the family relations and expose the toll that the two year ordeal of “Winslow vs. Rex” has taken. With the family’s name being strewn across the daily papers and reporters clamoring at their doorstep, Catherine’s prospect of marriage becomes weakened and Arthur must decide how much more his family and their coffers can endure. Here Rattigan is at his best showing the dichotomy of Arthur’s quest for financial security for his daughter while seemingly squandering away his own fortune, which ultimately will lessen her dowry.
Cavanagh paces the evening well in this play that at first glance seems much ado about nothing, but later turns into an elucidating family drama.