The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings





Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants









Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
The Voysey Inheritance

By Dave Lohrey

You'd think an Empire could keep its streets clean.
---Hugh Voysey
Harley Granville-Barker is neither as well known as his friend George Bernard Shaw nor perhaps as dramatically daring as Ibsen, but he possesses many of their theatrical attributes. The stuffy bourgeoisie seems to be his chief occupation, while, as was true of his contemporaries, he is not content to allow them to get off the moral hook by either depicting them as empty fops or by using the theatre for their diversion. Rather, as this splendid production at the Walnut Theatre proves, this playwright is intent on using the theatre as an instrument of learning as well of entertainment.

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.

Written by Harley Granville-Barker.
Director: Malcolm Black.

Cast: Paxton Whitehead, Lorraine Foreman, Dan Schiff, Sally Mercer, Ted Pejovich, Hayden Saunier, Neale Anthony DiMento, Blair Williams, Ian Merrill Peakes, Alicia Roper, Sara Pauley, J. Andrew Keitch, Grace Gonglewski, Michael Lombard, Louis Lippa, Ian D. Clark, Sharon Alexander, Jennifer Alimonti.
Scenic & Lighting Design: Paul Wonsk.
Costume Design: Hilary Corbett.
Running Time: 2 Hours and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia. 215/ 574-3550.
Opens 03/11/03-04/27/23. Tues.-Sat. at 8:00 pm, Sun at 7:00 pm. Selected matinees, Thurs., Sat., & Sun. Call for schedule.
Reviewed by David Lohrey based on performance of 03/22/03.

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
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
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2003, Elyse Sommer Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from