“An Inspector Calls,” written by J.B. Priestly and directed by Stephen Daldry, represents the finest of offerings at the prestigious Wallis Annenberg Theatre. The play combines a suspenseful pleasure of an Agatha Christie mystery to a favorite game of Clue (whodunnit) to a deeper, perhaps spiritual, even ghostly or angelic realm above. It could very well be classified as a morality fable, where each and every character has to look hard and deep within themselves, and expose every flaw, indiscretion and fault, particularly in perhaps causing the suicide of young Eva Smith. This play, originally produced in the 1990’s still resonates to audiences of all ages today. At opening scene, we find a house, almost sinking ( both figuratively and literally) against the backdrop of London’s overcast, gloomy sky with a period lamppost shedding the only light (quite similar to the dreary weather in Mary Poppins Returns). The set is quite elaborate in its own right and paints a picture apropos to mood and story. At first glance, it seems a happy occasion of Mr Birling’s daughter Sheila’s (Lianne Harvey)engagement to Gerald Croft (Andrew Macklin), a seemingly upstanding gent. The plot gets as thick as the fog surrounding, as unexpectedly, as the title conveys, an inspector (Liam Brennan) enters the scene with a barrage of questions for the family. The play has many twilight zone or Hitchcock style features and characters: Eric, (Hamish Riddle), the alcoholic son, perceived by parents as a ne’er do well; Edna, (Diana Payne-Myers), the obliging servant , always seen downstairs while the ruling class is upstairs. The play brings up quite a sensitive subject, of suicide and all its ramifications. Are we, as a society, possibly responsible and held accountable, much like the Biblical ‘brother’s keeper,’ as it were? What lies beneath the surface of a perfect, beautiful facade sometimes is emotions of jealousy, rage, and insecurity roiling within. The adage, ‘no one knows what goes on behind closed doors’ comes to mind. Notwithstanding the enigmatic plot and conclusion, the stage setting is superb; the dialogue crisp and fast paced; the cast/ensemble stellar and captivating. Jeff Harmer and Christine Kavanagh are standouts as Mr. and Mrs. Birling, respectively. The ensemble of young children and adults, almost lurking in the background, are representative of the inequality of classes; the wealthy land and factory owners and the poor workers, in post war Britain. Daldry’s striking revival of this epic classic is a must see for all theatre connosieurs.
Through Feb 10