Theater Review: ‘An Inspector Calls’ for mystery lovers

  • “An Inspector Calls” cast, from left to right, Marc LeVasseur, Rebecca Brinkley, Jack Koenig, Dee Nelson, Anna Rock and Alex Carr at The Peterborough Players.  Photo By Will Howell

  • “An Inspector Calls” Rebecca Brinkley, Jack Koenig, Anna Rock, Gus Kaikkonen, Dee Nelson, Marc LeVasseur and Alex Carr at The Peterborough Players.  Courtesy Photo By Will Howell—

In the Reviewer’s Chair
Published: 7/19/2018 10:52:15 AM

J.B. Priestley’s “An Inspector Calls” is in no way a new play, being over seventy years old, but it certainly feels anything but dated upon the stage of the Peterborough Players this summer.

Written during the Second World War, but taking place over the course of a single evening decades earlier in 1912, externally it is nothing more than another thriller like the dozens that came before it and the dozens that have come after it. However, if you’ll allow yourself to become immersed in the single earth-shattering evening of the well-to-do Birling family presented before you, I’ve faith that you’ll be pleasantly surprised in the way this story unwinds.

The premise is simple: a family’s dinner is interrupted by an inspector whose come calling to the door to tell them the sorry state of a young girl they all know in some way or another. It’s the type of formula all too familiar to those devout to the very genre of the contemporary thriller, but the fun in this tale comes in the fact that the many twists and turns over the course of its three acts are nearly unforeseen.

As we the audience watch on in morbid delight or electrified horror, or maybe a mix of the two, a single evening and a round of astute observations tears a family apart as they individually grow more and more desolate and taken aback with each other and the secrets they’ve kept hidden from the people they love for so long. The idea is familiar in many ways, but intriguing nonetheless and as I watched this recipe for suspicion and pointed fingers begin to brew, this roundtable for pinning the blame on everyone else but oneself begin to overflow, I couldn’t help thinking that it was executed wonderfully.

Under the direction of Keith Stevens, the Peterborough Players production of “An Inspector Calls” is inviting in its morbidity with a company that makes us care for these characters who, save for the Birlings maid Edna, as played by Anna Rock, are not particularly nice people.

Inspector Goole, played by Gus Kaikkonen with all the wit of Holmes, the compassion of Watson, and intrigue of Poirot, tells us almost instantly upon his entrance the vague details of something ghastly that demands both the attention of the Birling family, though they doubt it at first, and the audience. Objections come from all sides, most vocally from Birling family patriarch Arthur, played with bite and brashness by Jack Koenig, who won’t possibly accept his part in the tragedy. Beside him is his similarly tempered wife Sybil, who is shining with wit and poise thanks to Dee Nelson, and who is quite literally shining in dress thanks to the beautiful costume design of Anthony Paul-Cavaretta, a standout of the technical aspects of the production alongside the simple, yet stunning set design.

Daughter Sheila is clever as she is caring, her fiance Gerald Croft charming; portrayed by Rebecca Brinkley and Marc LaVasseur respectively, and Eric Birling, brother to Sheila and portrayed brilliantly by Alex Carr, who slowly drifts from strange comedic character to one bereft with guilt, mix to finish out a group of characters who enchant.

To those who love a good mystery, those who want a story to let them do a little thinking of their own, or those who quite simply are interested in a show with a wonderful ensemble, “An Inspector Calls” is most certainly for you.

Running from July 18 thru July 29, it promises to leave you with at least something to consider.

AN INSPECTOR CALLS: By J. B. Priestley; directed by Keith Stevens; scenic design by Charlie Morgan and Gus Kaikkonen; costume design by Anthony Paul-Cavaretta; lighting design by F. Mitchell Dana; sound design by Kevin Frazier; production stage manager, Erin Lindsay Carr; stage manager, Julia Perez; assistant stage managers, Vanessa Hart and Chris Rodriguez.

PRESENTED BY: The Peterborough Players, artistic director, Gus Kaikkonen; managing director, Keith Stevens. At 55 Hadley Road, Peterborough.

WITH: Jack Koenig (Arthur Birling), Marc LaVasseur (Gerald Croft), Rebecca Brinkley (Shelia Birling), Dee Nelson (Sybil Birling), Anna Rock (Edna), Alex Carr (Eric Birling) and Gus Kaikkonen (Inspector Goole).

Cheyenne Heinselman is an actress and a playwright, a member of the International Thespian Society Troupe #7883, as well as an avid and opinionated supporter of the arts.

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