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A CurtainUp Review
The Roundabout

I was beginning to think you hadn't any natural feelings. — Lord Kettlewell

That might be all hereditary, you know, father. Think how you must have upset mother in your time. And there may have been a time when I suffered just because I hadn't any real family life. If I don't believe in families any more, it may be because you robbed me of any real family background. — Pamela
L-R: Steven Blakeley and Emily Laing (Photo by Carol Rosegg)
Incessant flippant chatter is crisply deployed along with archaic social commentary in the little known J.B. Priestly 1932 comedy The Roundabout. Certainly not in the same league with his regularly revived An Inspector Calls it belongs within the once revered "drawing room" genre wherein trifling but also unsettling issues, both romantic and familial, got their due with lots of ado.

I suspect that the recent resurrection of this Hugh Ross-directed production in London may have spurred the transatlantic journey to 59E59 as part of the Brits 0ff Broadway Festival.(London review). Going along with the presumption that pretentiously affected acting comes with the territory and with this import, credit is due to the cast and to Ross who has affably and effectively abetted.

It isn't that The Roundabout is a terrible play just that it probably never made any pretense even 85 years ago to be more than a passing, or perhaps passably socially aware divertissement. Notwithstanding The Roundabout's relative insignificance, it actually makes a slight and snippy jab at a world of disengaged gentry blind to the changes being made by the proletariat.

The play is set in the country house of Lord Kettlewell (an appropriately stiff-necked Brian Protheroe), a well-to-do financier whose investments have gone as sour as has is relationships with his estranged wife Lady Kettlewell (a properly la-di-da Lisa Bowerman); also his grown daughter Pamela (a spirited Emily Laing) who he hasn't seen since childhood and who he unexpectedly and reluctantly receives.

Now a Communist, Pamela's sojourn in the USSR included befriending Comrade Straggles, a young revolutionary who is not only in tow but suddenly out of control aggressively pursuing amorous interludes with both the housemaid Alice (Annie Jackson) and the mistress.

There is the contentious but none too enlightening blather about the rise of Communism and fall of Capitalism amidst the entrances and exits of characters: Parsons (Derek Hutchinson), a butler who has made a fortune at the races. . . Lady Knightsbridge (Richenda Carey) who stereotypically personifies the upper class). . . and the most glib and disdainful of all Lord Kettlewell's closest friend Churton Saunders (Hugh Sachs), a veritable whirlpool of aphorisms and witticisms. He not only notices everyone but has them all pegged.

There are some other characters whose amorous, political, confrontational, and conventional inclinations become as muddled as Priestley's intentions in a play that is, if nothing less or more, appropriately named.

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The Roundabout by J.B. Priestly
Directed by Hugh Ross
Cast: Steven Blakeley (Comrade Stabbles), Lisa Bowerman (Lady Kettlewell), Richenda Carey (Lady Knightsbridge), Emily Laing (Pamela Kettlewell), Charlie Field (Farrington Gurney), Derek Hutchinson (Parsons), Annie Jackson (Alice), Ed Pinker (Alec Grenside), Brian Protheroe (Lord Kettlewell), Hugh Sachs (Churton Saunders), Carol Starks (Hilda Lancicourt)
Designer: Polly Sullivan
Lighting Designer: David Howe
Composer: Matthew Strachan
Costume Designer: Holly Henshaw
Company Stage Manager: Lucy Barker-Dale
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes including 1 intermission
59E59 Theatres as part of their Brits Off-Broadway festival
Tickets: $25.00 to $70.00
Performances: Tuesday- Thursday at 7 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm and 8 and Sunday at 3 pm
From 04/20/17 Opened 04/30/17 Ends 05/28/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 04/25/17

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