In J.B. Priestley's 1937 play, Time and the Conways, it's 1919 and the Conways are giving a party for daughter Kay's 21st birthday. While the guests enjoy themselves elsewhere, various Conways retreat to a side room to prepare for charades, rest themselves, chat, and freak out a bit. The Conways are well-off and happy in some ways, but the father has recently died and of course they've just been through the Great War.
Kay (Charlotte Parry, superb and unique) wants to be a writer, Hazel (Anna Camp, touching and beautiful) wants to marry well, Madge (Brooke Bloom, energetic and moving) is a socialist who wants to change the world, and Carol (excellent and tremendously likable) wants people to be nice, get along, and tell the truth. Their amiably ineffectual brother Alan (Gabriel Ebert, just right), loves their friend Joan (Cara Ricketts, quite good). The other brother, Robin (Matthew James Thomas, unconvincing), is a war hero full of promise.
And then there is their mother, Mrs. Conway (Elizabeth McGovern, not particularly impressive), an ostensibly charming woman who can--and does--devastate her children with the most seemingly innocuous of comments. Only Robin is safe from her acid tongue.
Throw in the passage of years, a little jumping around in time, a soupçon of metaphysical philosophy, smart and insightful writing, wonderful design elements, smooth direction (Rebecca Taichman) and a largely first-class ensemble, and you have an excellent and surprisingly contemporary evening in the theater.
One thing: Elizabeth McGovern should not have gotten a solo bow. Not only is Time and the Conways an ensemble piece, but McGovern is far from the best thing in it. On the other hand, if her name and association with Downton Abbey helped get this production put on, then all I can say is, thank you.
(third row on the aisle; friend won the lottery so ticket was only $19.19)