Suspenseful British theater

Ensemble in An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley, (Photo by Mark Douet)
Ensemble in An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley, (Photo by Mark Douet)

4 stars

JB Piestley’s classic “An Inspector Calls” has landed at Chicago Shakespeare Theater just shy of it 75th birthday. But its scenario is as interesting and suspenseful today as it was when first performed in 1945.

The time is an April night in 1912. The place is the home of the Birlings, a wealthy, British, class-conscious family. They are celebrating the engagement of daughter Shelia to Gerald Croft when Inspector Goole arrives to question their connection to a young girl who has committed suicide.

Picture melodramatic fog, lighting, staging and pauses in conversation for the greatest effect as Inspector Goole’s relentless questioning extracts honesty and confessions from the Birlings and Croft.

 

Jeff Harmer, Diana Payne-Myers, Lianne Harvey, Hamish Riddle, Andrew Macklin, Christine Kavanagh and Ensemble in An Inspector Calls. (Photo by Mark Douet)
Jeff Harmer, Diana Payne-Myers, Lianne Harvey, Hamish Riddle, Andrew Macklin, Christine Kavanagh and Ensemble in An Inspector Calls. (Photo by Mark Douet)

The play seems to end with Inspector Goole’s lecture on class upheavals and possibly a reference to the  coming of World War I. Spoiler alert: the show is not over.

The cast is excellent. Lianne Harvey is Shelia Birling, Christine Kavanagh is her mother, Sybil, Jeff Harmer is her father, Arthur, and Hamish Riddle is her brother, Eric. Andrew Macklin is her fiancé Gerald Croft, Liam Brennan is Inspector Goole. Adjunct players are Diana Payne-Myers who appears to be their maid, Judah Abner Paul as a young lad, Trent A. Davis as an older boy and Sophie Kaegi as a girl.

On an international tour by the National Theatre of Great Britain, the production was revived by English director Stephen Daldry in 1992. Its dramatic music is by composer Stephen Warbeck with an interestingly representative scenic design by Ian MacNeil who also designed the period costumes.

DETAILS: “An Inspector Calls” is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave. on Navy Pier, Chicago, through March 10, 2019. Running time 1 hr, 45 min. no intermission.  For tickets and other information call (312) 595-5600 or visit Chicago Shakes/Inspector.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *