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A CurtainUp Review
The Voysey Inheritance
By Dave Lohrey
The Voysey Inheritance deserves the stately, large-scale production it is receiving in Philadelphia. With a cast of eighteen under the superb direction of Malcolm Black this is a full realization of the Edwardian world known to American viewers of PBS. Set designer Paul Wonsek's creation of the Voysey estate would seem cramped in a smaller theatre. Wonsek's designs include a heavy use of mahogany paneling, which is absolutely appropriate to capture the insularity and suffocating arrogance of the British ruling class. One of the great pleasures of seeing this play at the Walnut, whose seasons normally consists largely of musicals, derives from its ability to fully realize the scale of wealth and comfort afforded the legal profession at the height of the British Empire.
Paxton Whitehead (Mr. Voysey) performs admirably as the somewhat muddled, ethically impaired investment manager who has constructed his empire, literally, on delusions of grandeur. Upon Voysey's death, the family wealth, which consists of empty accounts, is passed on to his son Edward (Blair Williams), who sets out to repair both his family's reputation and the lost fortunes of his father's clients. Mr. Williams, who looks like a young Anthony Hopkins, provides a sustained, powerful performance as the ethically righteous son, whose tragedy consists of not knowing how to be a thief.
The entire cast is marvelous. Ted Pejovich stands out in the role of Major Booth Voysey, Edward's brother, who is not so sure that telling the truth is a good career move. Ian Merrill Peakes (Hugh Voysey) plays the classic Edwardian bohemian with more than a measure of dash. His naiveté and innocence add balance to the heavy masculine bearing of his male counterparts. The brothers as played here create the semblance of family while expressing distinct personalities. This is a tribute both to the writing and to their impressive performances.
George Booth (Michael Lombard) is the family friend and client whose fortune is dramatically reduced and nearly destroyed by the father's risky business practices. Lombard' s performance captures the full range of emotions one might expect from someone who has been ruined and betrayed. Lombard, too, offers a kind of comic gravity to the proceedings that helps to keeps things from getting too dark.
The women in the Voysey house will not allow themselves to be counted out, and neither will the actresses in this superb cast. The most memorable role, perhaps, belongs to Beatrice Voysey (Alicia Roper), Hugh's wife, who, unlike the others, was not born into wealth, and therefore is not so willing to adopt complacent attitudes for the sake of show. Emily (Hayden Saunier), Major Booth's wife, along with the widow Voysey (Lorraine Foreman), and others, do more than merely add to the atmosphere. The author provides them with witty banter and numerous mordant quips, which make the viewer yearn for more. Taken together, this is ensemble acting at its very best.
Editor's Note: New York's Mint Theater which specializes in bringing new attention to forgotten plays, had so much success with their production of Voysey that they reprised it a year later. To read CurtainUp's review of that production go here.
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Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
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Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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