Who-done-its often involve multiple twists and turns, dead ends, and tangential material —all leading to the capture of the criminal and justice served at the last moment. Director Laurie Freed did a masterful job guiding her terrific cast in Rockville Little Theatre’s superb An Inspector Calls. I was so impressed that the story line was presented so clearly and that the emphasis was on character development.
This who-done-it, based on the book by J.B. Priestley, is also a morality play. The mystery involving status, conscience, class, and humility is intriguing from first glimpse of the family celebrating the engagement of their daughter to the dramatically changed relationships between the major characters we see at the end of the play.
Scenic Artist Maggie Modig, Properties Designer Nancy Eynon Lark, and Set Designer David Levin provide a single set of lush surroundings befitting the family’s standing in the community. Levin cleverly uses both stairs and a ramp to allow dramatic movement and interaction among the cast. We are first faced with the facade of a house, dramatic in its one-dimensional portrayal, and with windows which are in perfect alignment. Similarly arranged are the pictures in the house. As these become disheveled in the second act, the windows and artwork in the house are all askew. By the end, even the exterior facade is all a-kilter.
Kudos the amazing cast! Peter Harrold (Mr. Arthur Birling) and Natalie McManus (Mrs. Sybil Birling) kept their stiff upper lips and imagined themselves to be above the riffraff during the entire evening. Harrold was quite loquacious in describing his status in life and the importance of its maintenance. He encouraged his son, Eric (Michael Silver), and daughter’s fiancé, Gerald Croft (Chris Daileader), to emulate his often pompous ways. Natalie McManus held a regal bearing with nose properly raised to look down upon the world and show absolute disdain for those she believed below her status. And status was her main focus, whether talking about her distance from anything that could be viewed as distasteful, to just not getting some of the major discoveries other characters made. Her shrill tone was spot-on. And Costume Designer Laura W. Andruski made her appear as if she had an iron rod right where it belonged – so hoity-toity was her bearing.
Lena Winter (Sheila Birling) gave one of the most stirring performances as the Birling daughter and fiancée of Gerald Croft; reacting to new discoveries and their implications with appropriate, and sometimes abrupt changes in mood and emotion. She was the bellwether and major interpreter of the implications of the material revealed. Lighting Designer Peter Caress further bolstered her role, providing subtle changes in illumination reflecting her discoveries about herself and others.
Ah! and Inspector Goole (Gordon Adams). Smooth as silk, and always to be believed, he slowly drew in each member of the family to say what they must almost without realizing that a they had been drawn into the intrigue. Not your stereotypical Inspector, Adams was suave, using charm and intelligence to weave together the story that no one wanted to hear.
Pauline Griller-Mitchell (Edna) had a small role as housekeeper. She appeared infrequently, but when she did, it was with all of the mannerisms expected of a person of her station.
Dialect Coach Pauline Griller-Mitchell did a wonderful job prepping the cast. Everyone had proper English accents, each different from the rest. In addition, their speech was so clear that one did not have to strain to understand through the accent. Sound Designer Bob Scott’s crystal clear sound contributed a great deal to that clarity.
The only way for you follow Inspector Goole as he raises all of the complex issues is to catch An Inspector Calls before it is too late. Filled with great performances, you must make a call on Rockville Little Theatre’s fine production. The outcome will surprise you.
Running Time: Two hours, with one intermission.
An Inspector Calls plays through February 2, 2014 at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. Tickets: Adults – $18, Seniors (62 and over) and Students (with valid I.D.) – $16. For tickets, call (240) 314-8690, or go to the box office, which is open Tuesday – Saturday from 2:00 – 7:00 pm.