- J.B. Priestley died a month short of his 90th birthday, and
during his near-century of life, he certainly made good use of
served in World War I, wrote social, political and literary
commentary, published countless novels and plays and was a
commentator on BBC until Winston Churchill had him fired for
his socialist views. He was hated by some but loved and
admired by many.
Inspector Calls,” one of his most popular works, now gracing
the stage at Waukesha Civic Theatre, is more than an engaging
mystery. It allows Priestley to express some of his views on
social injustice and the ethics of taking responsibility for
one’s own actions. The inspector is a somewhat arcane figure
who arrives upon the scene of a celebratory occasion and turns
it into a scathing probe into the consciences of all the
prominent families are soon to unite through the marriage of
Gerald Croft and Sheila Birling. Both families own profitable
mills and live very comfortably.
Birling, a self-impressed, successful entrepreneur is also
involved in civic affairs as is his wife, Sybil, who raises
money for the indigent. She is a self-righteous woman who
values propriety and “appearances” above all else.
two children, Sheila and Eric, enjoy their privileged status
but also have views that differ from those of their parents.
Sheila’s fiancˇ, Gerald, seems like a man who gauges his
actions in terms of his own self-interest, but he proves more
complex as his character reveals itself. Eric is a bit of a
time bomb, and his unpredictability surfaces in direct
proportion to his next drink. A very fascinating group of
characters gathered in the sumptuous Birling living room.
(Good scenic design by Michael Talaska.)
unexpected arrival of Inspector Goole is the catalyst for all
that follows in this enthralling story that unites and
connects all the characters in varying degrees to the suicide
of an impoverished young woman named Eva Smith. The inspector,
mesmerizingly played by Ralph M. Garcia, demands all the
characters’ attention as well as ours. Masterfully done.
Frattura captures the puffed-up superiority of Arthur; and
Mary Rynders, the prim, prickly snobbishness of his wife,
is definitely caricaturing the upper class here. The younger
generation fare better from his pen - Sheila proves to be more
than a pretty face who loves fashion. Allison Chicorel gives a
polished, nuanced performance. James Boylan as Gerald proves
to be many-layered, as well. Eric, as rendered by Michael
Elftman, is fascinating to watch as he skulks around the edges
but finally gets the spotlight.
ably directed by the astute Carol Dolphin, this production
holds our interest throughout. Some impressive tech work by
Jeff Smerz (lighting) and John Santroch (sound). The costuming
by Sharon Sohner also added a wealthy flavor.
a whole, this production gets high marks.
Inspector Calls” continues through Feb. 17 at the Waukesha
Civic Theatre, 264 W. Main St., Waukesha. For show times and
tickets, call 262-547-0708 or visit www.waukeshacivictheatre.org