Taut Production Explores the Knots in Family Ties
By: Lauren Yarger
Just how far will a parent go to protect his or her child? In the case of Broadway’s The Winslow Boy, the answer is all the way — and maybe too far — both at the same time.
The Old Vic’s production of Terence Rattigan’s play is getting a stellar staging by Roundabout Theatre Company, under the careful direction of Lindsay Posner. Roger Rees and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio head the cast as the parents, Arthur and Grace Winslow who enjoy a peaceful life in pre-World War I Kensington, England.
Their daughter, Catherine (Charlotte Parry), is newly engaged to John Watherstone (Chandler Williams), a respectable military chap from an upstanding family who doesn’t exactly approve of Cate who shows much more emotion about her cause of women’s suffrage than she does outward affection for John. Arthur’s gift of a settlement on Cate is welcome, since the couple will have to live on John’s meager Army salary and an allowance he receives form his father.
Dickie (Zachary Bolt) gets by at Oxford, but can’t compete with the perfection — at least that’s how Dickie thinks everyone sees him — of younger brother Ronnie (Spencer David Milford), who is studying at Arthur’s alma mater, the Royal Naval College at Osborne.
The biggest threats to their peaceful existence come from their overly familiar parlor maid, Violet (Henny Russell) and the awkward position Cate’s engagement has put the family solicitor, Desmond Curry (Michael Cumpsty) in since he has been in love with her for years. That’s until one Sunday morning in July when Ronnie comes slinking home, expelled form school after being accused of forging a signature on a postal note and stealing 5 shillings.
Arthur makes it his goal in life to clear the boy. He re-appropriates funds allocated for Cate’s settlement and Dickie’s schooling to hire the best attorney in England: Sir Robert Morton (a very impressive Alessandro Nivola to take the case. Dickie is forced to accept a position at his father bank and Cate’s wedding plans might be scrapped as John is influenced by the loss of his allowance and in the face of the growing attraction between Cate and Morton. Initially in support of her husband’s efforts to defend their son’s name, Grace comes to wonder whether the case known as "The Winslow Boy," was worth the sacrifices, especially in light of Ronnie’s own lack of concern about it.
The acting and directing here are superb making the two-hour-45-minute run time breeze by. The sets and costumes (designed by Peter McNish) are nice to look at too.
The Winslow Boy runs through Dec. 1 at American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., NYC. Tickets: http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/