Opulence Surrounded by Destitution
The world is filled with sumptuousness and poverty and the two never seems to go hand and hand; however JB Priestley’s play ‘An Inspector Calls’ masterfully merges two worlds in his classic thriller of the have, and the have nots where the wealthy seem oblivious to the people who live in hardship surrounded by them.
Director Stephen Daldry intertwined the two, the privilege and the deprived together in Great Britain’s landmark production of ‘An Inspector Calls’ at The Courtyard Theatre at Shakespeare. The play is a three-act drama which takes place on a single night in April 1912, in Brumley, England where a mysterious inspector by the name of Goole (Liam Brennan) shows up at a wealthy English home to interrogate the family.
As the family gathered to toast the engagement of Arthur's daughter Sheila (Lianne Harvey) to a wealthy business rival and heir Gerald Croft (Andrew Macklin), the son of one of Birling's competitors, Crofts Limited, the family joy turns to anguish; as Inspector Goole words of a sad and horrific tragedy seem to bring the entire family in question.
Inspector Goole waits outside of the well-designed stage doll-like house perched above the indigence landscape to talk to Arthur Birling (Jeff Harmer) the patriarch of the family regarding their responsibility for the death of a young working-class factory woman. He begins to question him about a poverty-stricken damsel in distress who had committed suicide by the name of Eva Smith. Birling first tells the inspector he has no idea who this woman could be, however after reviewing a picture and being pressed by the inspectors with details, Birling divulges to the fact that he did indeed know her. Birling self-righteous in his tone admits to removing Eva as an employee after she caused a stir and stood behind his reasoning as a rational business decision.
The Inspector then turns his questions to Sheila, and she realizes she too had something to do with the mindset of this tragic soul that she met during a shopping excursion. Sheila is a sweet and kind person in spirit; however, her narcissistic piety raises its ugly head with she felt that a young lady at the store was giggling at her. When the inspector showed her a picture of the young lady, she understood that her smug attitude, which got the young lady fired was the same woman her father encountered. Torn by the cycle of events, she questions if she alone was responsible, however, the inspector wasn't finished.
We asked the husband-to-be, Gerald if he knew Eva and Gerald with presumptuous pride denied knowing such of a woman; until he heard the name, Daisy Renton. This brought out feelings of love and shame. He had never discussed his past relationship with anyone, especially Sheila, and as the world turns, another connection occurred that question if anyone was safe from the unfortunate affairs of Eva, also known as Daisy.
Arthur's wife Sybil (Christine Kavanagh) was next, and the inspector led the pompous, snobbish and self-absorbed woman of leisure down a dark trail of destitute and regret. She met Eva as a desolate person seeking help from women's charity where she was on the committee. Seeking financial aid as an unwed pregnant woman and refusing to accept ill-gained assistance from the father, she's confident that Eva was lying or covering up some crime, and convinced the committee to deny Eva request and told her that the father should be more honorable and take responsibility.
After seeing her arrogance, Inspector Goole asked her what should happen to the father of the child. Sybil words for this detestable man was that he should make a public confession, accepting all the blame, and receive any the punishment the law provides. Goole then completes the appalling connection by letting the family know that they were all involved and that the drunken lad that couldn't hold his liquor was the father and their son Eric (Hamish Riddle). Is the story over? Go to Chicago Shakespeare Theatre to find out the conclusion.
Liam Brennan leads this superb cast with an outstanding performance as Inspector Goole. His performance kept you on the edge of your seat. Jeff Harmer as the aristocratic gentlemen, well known as a wealthy factory owner and local politician provided a good brouhaha when being questioned by the inspector and fighting to dissolve his family and keep their well-polished name and heritage intact. Rounding out the cast which includes highly talented actors Kavanagh, Macklin, Harvey, Riddle, and Payne-Myers are all phenomenal.
Originally performed in September 1945 in the Soviet Union and 1946 in the UK, this is considered one of Priestley's best-known works and one of the classics of mid-20th century English theatre.
An Inspector Calls is a mystifying thrilling joyride from the first word. It's a suspenseful quest for truth with an ending that will have you thinking if Oscar Wilde 1889 essay "The Decay of Lying," was right about life imitates art.
Let's Play Highly Recommends "An Inspector Calls," at Shakespeare Theatre. It's a "Who Did It "night of mystical, magical fun.
The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare
An Inspector Calls
Playwright JB Priestley
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Now Playing through March 10, 2019
Filed under: ChicagoNow