Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 18, 2016

An Inspector Calls

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA

through February 14, 2016

by Shera Cohen             

From the title, the opening scene, the background music, and the inspector’s entrance, one might expect a Columbo-ish mystery-comedy in “An Inspector Calls.” Mystery, yes. Comedy, no.

The lush trappings of the British Birling home set the tone of what will quickly be realized as a political socioeconomic comment on pre-WWI disparity. Five exquisitely dressed well-spoken family members celebrate an engagement announcement. Their world is clean, rich, proper, and orderly. Surprise! The uninvited Inspector Goole arrives, informing all of the recent suicide of a young impoverished woman. This becomes messy business which grossly interrupts everyone’s life as the inspector relentlessly forces each character to deal with secrets, guilt, consequences, responsibilities, and morals.

Photo by Lee Chambers
John Thomas Waite (Inspector Goole), a semi-regular at the Majestic, is the personification of this role. Waite’s gentle voice, easy gate, and “every-man” demeanor purposely hide the Inspector’s mission. This is, after all, a mystery. Walter Mantani (father) portrays a blustering caricature. Cate Damon (mother) depicts the epitome of prim and proper rather well. Myka Plunkett (daughter) represents the character with any depth and change. Plunkett’s facial nuances and hand gestures often say more than her words. All onstage require English accents; some succeeding better than others.

Director Zoya Kachadurian has a difficult task in moving her cast in any meaningful ways around a single set. In other words, very little physicality is needed, making the play seemingly wordier than it already is. But the director must take what is given by the playwright. However, revving up the pace might have been possible in some sections.

Is it possible for Set Designer Greg Trochlil create bad work? Never, or at least not so far. His 1912 dining room/living room with its three levels is exquisite without being gauche.

There is another character named Eva Smith. Although never onstage, she is very much present at the center of the play’s purpose as the antithesis of what the other characters do not see and the audience does see.

A “warning” about the theatre – it’s cold. Almost half of the audience wrapped their coats around them. Yes, it is January, but the Majestic is pretty much always cold. Just wear something warm.