San Diego Theater Review: TIME AND THE CONWAYS (The Old Globe)

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by Tony Frankel on May 3, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


Amanda Quaid as Kay Conway and Sarah Manton as Joan Helford in J.B. Priestley's Time and the Conways at The Old Globe.J. B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways is in some ways a creaky play, yet the production at The Old Globe is so lovingly directed, thrillingly acted, and stunningly designed that I can declare with confidence it is one of the most luminous productions you may ever witness. Sadly, this is almost a review of record, being that I just saw the play, but if you can catch it this closing weekend, I highly recommend it. But be aware that the plot development promised at the top of the play—which occurs in 1919 England at a birthday party in a privileged home of the fairly functional but fatherless Conway family (six grown children and their mother)—is actually a set-up for a sort of musing about perception. After the Act I party, where charades are played offstage and we meet a few of the guests, Act II returns to the same living room exactly nineteen years later and we can see what types of people the Conways (and their three guests) have become (and a lot of it isn’t pretty). Act III returns to the same 1919 setting exactly where Act I left off, but now it’s clear that this ostensibly contented household is already on the road to serious dysfunction.

The cast of J.B. Priestley's Time and the Conways, directed by Rebecca Taichman, March 29 - May 4, 2014 at The Old Globe. Photo by Jim Cox.There’s little in the way of dramatic fireworks or the witty sophistication of Noël Coward and the story line doesn’t really go anywhere—it goes back to where we began, so we can peer into those defining moments which led to what we became…or were. Is your head busting open yet? The groundbreaking idea set forth around this 1937 family drama must have been somewhat shocking at that time, but the time device—an idea about precognition set forth by pioneering aeronautical engineer J.W. Dunne—is actually a small part of the play. It’s heady stuff, but in essence Dunne’s theory states that were it not for the human consciousness, we would recognize that all moments in time are taking place at once—we’re just not tapping into the unconscious to understand that we can simultaneously exist in past, present, and future. Priestly accepted this theory and concocted his three-act play to give us hope that we have the chance to alter the course of our lives.

The cast of J.B. Priestley's Time and the Conways at The Old Globe.I urge you to tap into your unconscious while watching the play and let it slip over you like a dream—don’t analyze it. Let some of the most amazing actors on any stage do the work for you while Neil Patel’s ethereal, almost supernatural set creates the sense that you are actually floating through time. If you go with the pace set forth by the sure-handed but patient Rebecca Taichman, you will be rewarded with one of the greatest spine-tingling and breathtaking moments in theater. You might even decide afterwards that since where you are going is exactly where you are headed, you might as well step back and alter the course of your life.

Max Gordon Moore as Ernest Beevers and Rose Hemingway as Hazel Conway in J.B. Priestley's Time and the Conways at The Old Globe.

photos by Jim Cox

Time and the Conways
The Old Globe
1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park
ends on May 4, 2014
for tickets, call (619) 23-GLOBE or visit The Old Globe

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