BWW Reviews: Outstanding Production of THE WINSLOW BOY by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' artistic director, Steven Woolf, always has a knack for finding a classic, sometimes a neglected one, to present each season. This year it's Terence Rattigan's revered play The Winslow Boy, which some will remember from various revivals and film versions (1948 & 1999), and which stands out as a dramatic piece fraught with injustice. It's a story, based on fact, that is still as relevant today as it was when it was written. A splendid cast and keenly sharpened direction combine to provide a very compelling piece of theatre.
Young Ronnie Winslow has been expelled from a naval academy for the supposed crime of stealing a postage order, but proclaims his innocence. His "trial" at the academy allowed him no representation or proper defense, and because his father, Arthur, truly believes in him, he seeks out the services of one of England's brightest, and most difficult, barristers to defend his son. It's a matter of honor, but it's also important that the family maintains their standing in their community. This kind of expulsion is the type that would bring derision upon them. What follows is an uphill battle that will strengthen Arthur's resolve, while weakening him physically as the case drags on interminably.
Jeff Hayenga is outstanding as Arthur, demanding that justice be properly served, even as his health begins to deteriorate. Jay Statton brings a commanding presence and passion to the role of Sir Robert Morton, who takes on the case even though he knows it will be a difficult one to challenge, much less win. Jay Stadler also does fine work as Ronnie, and displays his mettle during a moment of intense questioning and scrutiny by Sir Robert. Kathleen Wise shines as Arthur's suffragette daughter, Catherine, who's uncertainty regarding Sir Robert, changes over the course of the play. Hunter Canning contributes nicely as Dickie Winslow, Ronnie's brother, who watches as the costs involved eat up his tuition to Oxford. Michael James Reed is quite good as the family's solicitor, Desmond Curry, who has a keen interest in Catherine. William Connell is solid as Catherine's fiancee, John Watherstone, who capitulates after his father objects to their proposed union. A great supporting cast includes: Peggy Billo (Violet), Carol Schultz (Grace Winslow), Amy Loui (Miss Barnes), and Kai Klose (Fred).
Steven Woolf's direction is just terrific, taking this piece of fictionalized history to new heights in his assuredly capable hands. Dorothy Marshall Englis contributes the exceptional costumes which evoke the period along with John Ezell's scenic design. Rob Denton's lighting and Rusty Wandall's sound also help to convey the atmosphere.
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has produced an unforgettable presentation of The Winslow Boy. It tugs at the heart and tears at the soul, and it's must-see theatre at its finest. Go see it on the main stage of the Loretto-Hilton through March 8, 2015.
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.