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10/17/13

The Winslow Boy Welcomes You to the 1940s

I'll be blunt - The Winslow Boy is my first experience with a Terence Rattigan play. Not that I am a treasure trove of 20th century author/playwright knowledge, but this is one of the few instances where I needed to do a Google search for context/background information before typing up this review. In fact, I still have Wikipedia open right now!


But it is to the credit of The Winslow Boy, an import from The Old Vic now playing at the American Airlines Theater, that I left with a surely assessment of…The Winslow Boy. By that I mean, I understand why it is an important piece in theater history and why it was worth reviving for an American-based audience.

On the other hand, there is a reason why this show hasn't been revived on Broadway since the 1940s. Namely, all of its timeless themes - a family's struggle to protect their honor (the son is accused of stealing money from a peer's locker at the Navy Academy, prompting a legal battle), a father's consumption for justice, social hierarchy and status - succumb to the obsolescence of The Winslow Boy's story. When the basis is drawn from a legal proceeding in the early-1900s, relevance for a 21st century crowd goes out the window.

Fortunately, what the show lacks in pertinence - and okay, its four-act runtime is a little laborious - everything else makes up for it. This truly is a charming and quaint production that feels like it just exited a time warp from England circa 1945.

Peter McKintosh's set and the costumes - ESPECIALLY the costumes - are gorgeous without being gaudy. Lindsay Posner's direction feels like a collection of smart choices, never letting each scene linger around for too long without a well-timed laugh or an important character moment to shine. And the ensemble is up to task, with the incredible Roger Rees at the helm playing the stubborn and slowly-beleaguering patriarch of the Winslow family.

The Winslow Boy isn't making me cross my fingers for another Terence Rattigan revival in the near-future (especially considering I don't know a single person who liked the last revival of Man and Boy). But writing off this show would be doing it a disservice. A lot of plays hit Broadway like time has stood still since their last go-around, but that doesn't mean the show has to suck. And on the right day in the right mood, an unchallenging, classic show, competently rendered like The Winslow Boy, is enough to send me home satisfied.


Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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