Thespians from the UCSB Dept. of Theatre & Dance showed off their convincing British accents this weekend in a well-acted performance of “Time and the Conways,” a melodramatic play written by playwright J.B. Priestley in 1937.
The play’s narrative jumps around in time, but it never loses its focus on the wealthy Conway family. When we meet the Conways during the first act, it is at a party in 1919.
The second act jumps forward 19 years, and during that time, the Conways have become pathetic and miserable. The third act returns to the 1919 party, and this is where the material begins to drag.
The first two acts are engaging, but the third is intentionally anticlimactic, with characters having revelations that the audience had learned about in the second act.
The Conways have frequent psychic moments in this final act, in which they stare off into the distance with a look of terror in their eyes. These moments will probably feel too over the top and dated for a modern audience.
However, Priestley’s character-driven material provided an excellent opportunity for a cast of talented Gaucho actors to take on challenging, subtle roles.
Allison Menzimer was especially believable as Kay Conway, a young aspiring novelist who grows up to become a depressed entertainment reporter.
Kay Conway is far more sensible and less dramatic than other members of the Conway family, and Menzimer’s performance is accordingly naturalistic and nuanced.
Menzimer is one of those talented theater actresses who can deliver a dramatic monologue without making the audience feel as if they are watching a dramatic monologue; her lines flowed together like natural conversation.
The makeup crew also did a remarkable job of making the 20-something actors undergo the aging process. In a discussion with the play’s director Simon Williams and cast following Saturday’s matinee show, actress Erika Lee was hardly recognizable, baring no resemblance to Mrs. Conway, the aged, widowed mother she portrayed only 10 minutes earlier.
Third-year actress Maggie Yeomans spoke with the most unique British accent while embodying her role as Madge Conway, a young socialist who grows up to become an anal-retentive school mistress.
Yeomans injected a lot of humor into her stiff character, indicating her potential to become a talented comedic actress as well.
Those interested in Priestley’s work or in J.W. Dunne’s theory of time (a major theme in this play) can catch “Time and the Conways” tonight at 8, Friday evening at 8, and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. in UCSB’s Hatlen Theatre. Tickets are only $13 for UCSB students and $17 for the general public.
For more information, visit http://www.theaterdance.ucsb.edu/.