Saturday, April 21, 2012

REVIEW: No Man is an Island in the Love Street Playhouse Production of "An Inspector Calls"

“Those were the Days, my Friends…” 

The time—1912.  Behind us---the Edwardian Age in England.  Ahead of us—a New Tomorrow?  But for now--a bridge between the old and the new.  What will we do?

This is the setting into which Priestley has deposited the viewers. Before the Titanic; before WWI.  But still suffocating in a caste-type system and gender inequality.  For the upper-class, the Birling family this, indeed, will be the threshold for a new tomorrow. 

But at a terrible price!

The Plot

It is the evening of the engagement of their daughter, Sheila, to another upper-crust businessman, Gerald Croft.  The young couple fiercely grinning.  Mom and Dad are pleased as punch.  Son, Eric, has had too much punch.  And isn’t everything just too fine for words in their insular world.

And into this mock world appears Inspector Goole.  He informs them of the suicide of a young woman.  A lady in which they all might have known and, perhaps they, in some way, may have been responsible for her death.  And, like the stages of an inevitable death—at first denial, then making excuses, blame, and finally acceptance.

David Roberts as Gerald Croft, Jennica Krohn as Sheila Birling and Paul
Segren as Inspector Goole in the Love Street Playhouse production of "An 
Inspector Calls." (Photo provided.)
The death throes of their life style is painful to observe, but necessary for removing the cancers of ignorance and intolerance.  The Inspector leaves, giving the family space to wallow in private and explore their shared guilt.  And, as a parting shot, he concludes...

“We do not live alone.”

We are our Brother’s Keeper, then.  Ah, yes.  But will they heed the warning…the lessons they have learned?  A hint: some do, some don’t.  A microcosm of humanity, then.

But the struggle is not yet over.  A couple of major twists remain. For, you see, the questions of…ah, but that would be telling, wouldn’t it?!  Trust me when I say that Ms. Christie, the Grand Dame of mysteries, would have been proud.  Even Rod Serling, in his Twilight Zone years, would have approved.

The Production

The Birling family enjoys their engagement party prior to the
Inspector's call. Photos here and below by Ruth Zschomler.
Priestley is not an easy playwright to digest or to stage.  One’s palate must be prepared for the sensations that will accompany the feast.  Go, knowing you will be challenged as a viewer and thinker.  For Priestley brings the Past with hurling force into our immediate Present, pleading with us to change, or we will be stuck in reliving it.

The accents of the cast are uneven, seeming to range from cockney to none at all.  And a couple members of the cast seemed to have trouble with lines.  But, with time, these, I’m sure, will be ironed out.  They strive mightily and well, forging through this difficult material.

Particularly good is Paul Segren as Inspector Goole.  His command of the stage and  knowledge of purpose in this pivotal role is captivating.  Nicholas Dibartolomeo as the son, Eric, smoothly transcends from a drunken sot to a raging animal, as the truth descends upon him. 

Jennica Krohn as Sheila Birling
And, as the smart, and quite entrancing bride-to-be, Jennica Krohn fits the role to a tee.  Also rounding out the cast are Don Smith as the smug father, JoAnn McClanahan as the mother, David Roberts as the groom-to-be and Rebekah Krohn as the maid.

The costumes, especially the women’s, are quite stunning by Fran Krohn, and Melinda Leuthold, Producer and owner of the company.  The design and direction are bravely executed by Gregory E. Zschomler.  And Jeff Leuthold, as always, has built a terrific set.

This production is well worth attending.  It runs weekends through May 13.  For further information go to their website at and/or call for tickets at 360-263-6670.

Review by Dennis J. Sparks

Mr. Sparks has years of experience in theater as a teacher, director and performer. He was formerly a Portland theatre reviewer for the Vancouver Voice (now defunct), and is currently a free-lance reporter living in Southwest Washington.

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