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BWW Reviews: THE WINSLOW BOY at Stage Centre Productions

The Winslow Boy tells the story of a student who is expelled from Osborne Naval College after being accused of stealing a postal money order from a fellow student, forging a signature and cashing it.  His family’s quest to have their son exonerated and reinstated in the school drives Terence Rattigan’s 1946 drama, which is based on a true case from 1908.

In this thoroughly engrossing performance by Stage Centre Productions, the sensitive Ronnie Winslow is portrayed by Thomas McMahon.  He sets the proper tone the moment the play begins. The tension in McMahon’s face and body communicate the boy’s fright and worry.

When his family engages the celebrated barrister Sir Robert Morton, the stage is set for a particularly tense scene in which Sir Robert Interrogates the boy to be assured of his innocence. Will van der Zyl gives a dashing and commanding interpretation of Sir Robert and in this scene raises the tension incrementally, almost line by line, as he and McMahon create a stunningly memorable climax to the first act.

Stage Centre regulars Roger Kell and Judy Gans portray the loving parents. Kell’s eloquent diction makes the retired banker an imposing patriarchal force, gradually losing a battle with rheumatism. Similarly, Gans plays the concerned mother who is unafraid to state her beliefs, yet somewhat bewildered by the rapid progress of the early 20th century.

The progress is represented by their two older children. Their son Dickie, in a lively performance by Christopher Douglas, loves playing the latest dance tunes on his gramophone and is reluctant to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Their suffragette daughter Catherine played with a delicate balance of passionate political ideals and domestic charm by Irit Shomrony is at first suspicious of Sir Robert but gradually comes to respect him. Her support of her younger brother causes an end to her engagement to stuffy John Watherstone, played with a certain snobbish style by Jason Martorino.  The entire ensemble cast brings us firmly into the era of the play, reflected by the comfortable upper-middle-class living room setting.

Michael James Burgess has directed the play, illuminating Rattigan’s text, and subtly showing the emotional and financial stress the case brings upon this family. They win their case, but at a huge personal cost to every family member.  Keeping the dramatic tension taught, Burgess allows occasional respites such as Christine Dick’s very funny performance as an obsessive reporter. Burgess is the guest artistic director for Stage Center Productions this seaon, and if his staging of The Winslow Boy is any indication, it appears that this company is in very capable hands and we can look forward to more fine productions from this immensely talented troupe.

The Winslow Boy continues at Fairview Library Theatre until Saturday October 8. Tickets are available at http://www.stagecentreproductions.com or by calling 416-299-5557.



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