J.B. Priestley’s “An Inspector Calls” had its premiere in 1946 and has been revived repeatedly ever since, with good reason. This play, too, is a philosophical polemic — actually about two: personal conscience and exploitation of women — but the theoretical themes are wrapped in a detective story which drives the plot forward with a series of surprise revelations; each revelation creating a progression of vivid character development.
Stephen Daldry’s revival maintains the original time frame of 1912, but adds a modern interpretation by shrinking the main setting — the mansion of a wealthy industrialist — into a doll’s house perched on a pedestal and surrounded by gloomy dystopian landscape. Unfortunately, the shrinkage constricts the actor’s movements, creating a distraction. Also distracting were some hammy performances and an overwrought Bernard Herrmann-style musical scoring that punctuated the dialogue.
But the universal messages and the unfolding plot revelations made the evening more than worthwhile.