One of J.B. Priestley’s Most Beloved Works from His Time Series
On September 14, 2017, Time and the Conways began previews at the American Airlines Theatre in a Roundabout Theatre Company production, ahead of an opening night scheduled for October 10, 2017. This play was written by J.B. Priestley in 1937, and was first performed on Broadway in 1938. It has not been revived on Broadway until this current production. The play is considered one of J.B. Priestley’s best. Like the others in his “Time” series, this play concerns a specific theory of time. In this case, it is a reflection on J.W. Dunne’s Theory of Time, in which he posits that all time is happening simultaneously, but that humans can only cognize time on a linear basis. In Time and the Conways, Priestley crafts a story of a family in Britain between the two world wars. The first act takes place in 1919 at the Conway daughter’s 21st birthday party, when there is much hope and excitement. In the second act, it is her birthday 18 years later, and it becomes clear that the Conway family has descended into hard times. Priestley prophetically understood that another war was on the way, and his characters predict as such. In the third act, we are back in the same time period as the first act, but just moments later, and it is clear that the seeds of the family’s downfall were already being laid even then. The play is therefore an accomplished and layered piece of theatre, which explores family dynamics with great intimacy, as well as metaphysical phenomena with great insight.
The cast of Time and the Conways is extraordinarily accomplished. In the role of Mrs. Conway, the matriarch, is Elizabeth McGovern. McGovern is lately best known for portraying the matriarch Cora Crawley on the television series Downton Abbey. In addition, she appeared on Broadway as Ophelia in the 1992 production of Hamlet, and also as Melissa Gardner in the rotating cast of the 1989 production of Love Letters. Furthermore, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Evelyn Nesbit in the 1981 film version of Ragtime, and her upcoming screen work includes The Commuter, in which she stars opposite Liam Neeson. In addition to McGovern, the cast of Time and the Conways includes Steven Boyer as Ernest. Boyer was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for the 2015 production of Hand to God, and also appeared in the 2002 production of I’m Not Rappaport. Beyond this, Anna Camp (Equus, The Country Girl) plays Hazel, Gabriel Ebert (Tony Award winner for Matilda, Thérèse Raquin, Casa Valentina) plays Alan, and Charlotte Parry (The Winslow Boy, The Importance of Being Earnest) plays Kay.
Tony Award Winner Rebecca Taichman Directs
This past season, Rebecca Taichman made her Broadway directorial debut in Paula Vogel’s play Indecent, which went on to earn her the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play. An auspicious start for a prolific career, this debut set the stage for Taichman to continue tackling diverse challenges in theatre. For her next Broadway endeavor, she has taken on the task of helming Time and the Conways. She was drawn to the material because of its incisive critique of bourgeoisie greed, along with its beautifully wrought characters and sensitive portrayal of conceptual issues. Taichman has her own story of timelessness as relates to the Broadway theatre. As a child, she sat in the orchestra of the Cort Theatre on Broadway, as her mother sat in a box above her, and recalls seeing a beam of light from her daughter, entranced by the goings-on onstage. In 2017, Taichman made her Broadway debut directing a play at that very same theatre, Indecent. The idea of recreating different experiences in the same location over time, or alternately portraying the stories taking place at different times in the same location, is therefore very resonant for Taichman.
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