Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern is turning in a transfixing performance as the troubled matriarch of the Conway family in Roundabout Theatre Company’s new production of J.B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways, which closes Sunday, Nov. 26 at the American Airlines Theatre in Midtown Manhattan. McGovern is joined on stage by a talented cast of actors who bring to life the time-shifting drama of the Conway bunch as they deal with life without their father amidst the post-World War I years in England.
McGovern’s character of Mrs. Conway starts the play off in 1919 with an air of happiness and familial love. She and the family have come together for a special party that involves a game of charades. As they enter and exit the sitting room and dress in humorous costumes, the family members showcase joviality and content. They are sad that their father is no longer around, but happy that the war is finally finished.
The second act, which takes place before the intermission, moves the narrative into the future another 20 years. The Conways are much less jovial. Mrs. Conway is on the verge of losing her house from financial ruin, and each of her children struggles with love, life and loss. The final act heads back to 1919 and has a wonderful way of connecting the two time periods.
Among Mrs. Conway’s children, Charlotte Parry’s Kay shines the brightest. Although kudos should be given to Gabriel Ebert’s Alan, the jocular loner among the family members. Steven Boyer is positively winning as the villainous Ernest, husband to Anna Camp’s Hazel. Rounding out the ensemble are Matthew James Thomas as Robin, Cara Ricketts as Joan, Anna Baryshnikov as Carol, Brooke Bloom as socialist Madge and Alfredo Narciso as family solicitor Gerald.
The fact that each member of the ensemble feels fully fleshed out and compelling is a credit to Priestley, the writer behind the more popular An Inspector Calls, and director Rebecca Taichman, fresh off her Tony win for Indecent.
Time and the Conways is by no means perfect. There are parts of the story that drag, and there seems to be a lack of high-stakes drama. This reviewer was hoping for an all-out shouting match or dinner-table scene for the actors to fully express their grievances. Instead, the grievances are realistically shared throughout the conversations, making for an odd pacing and anticlimactic feel.
McGovern offers a superbly realized portrait of Mrs. Conway. In many ways, her character holds the play together, and McGovern herself holds the ensemble together. She radiates energy and passion, and the play is best served when she’s on stage.
By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
Time and the Conways, written by J.B. Priestley and directed by Rebecca Taichman, plays through Sunday, Nov. 26 at the American Airlines Theatre on 42nd Street in New York City. The production from Roundabout Theatre Company stars Elizabeth McGovern. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with on 15-minute intermission. Click here for more information and tickets. Rating: