Time and the Conways


90We first became a fan of playwright J.B. Priestley some years ago when we saw “Dangerous Corner” in London, which we enjoyed even more than his most famous play, “An Inspector Calls.” Last night, we saw Priestley’s “Time and the Conways” on Broadway, a play not seen locally for 80 years. Unlike the plot-driven “Corner” (basically, What if someone had done something differently at the beginning…), “Conways” explores the characters of Mrs. Conway (Elizabeth McGovern), her five children and a few others. Here, the mechanism that makes this character study different is time change, or rather, time changes. We see the family in 1919, in 1938, and then again in 1919. (It expands on the conceit of “Merrily We Roll Along,” which runs backwards in time.)

After a painfully slow start, the pace picks up for the rest of the play. We watch the family’s ambitions, triumphs and flaws progress over almost two decades, then get to revisit them in the last act. While there may a little too much philosophy, dreams and theories of time thrown in, it’s never uninteresting. McGovern is the star; Donna loved her performance, of which I was less enamored. But the ensemble overall was quite good.

We should be appreciative of the Roundabout’s bringing Priestley back to New York. Even a moderately good Priestley beats a lot of what passes for Broadway drama these days. Which reminds me, the theater company most associated with producing early 20th-century British plays is the Mint Theater — one of our favorite destinations.

Ben Rosen


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