By: Sandi Durell
When young Ronnie Winslow (Spencer Davis Milford) returns home unexpectedly from the Royal Naval College, a military academy, it reeks havoc on the Winslow family and their good name.
Terence Ratigan’s 1946 English drama, with some comedic inserts and a slow rendering of the story, is about the master of the house Arthur Winslow’s (a stunning performance by Roger Rees) need to protect and save the family’ name in what turns out to be an eventual court battle. The story was based upon an actual case that took place in 1908. Fourteen year old Ronnie has been accused of stealing a five-shilling postal order and has been expelled.
As any worthwhile British upper class banker would do, Arthur has chosen to defend his son’s innocence once assured by Ronnie that he is, in fact, blameless. He calls in well known barrister Sir Robert Morton (sternly and pragmatically played by Alessandro Nivola) who submits the boy to a cross-examination in the Edwardian living room (scenic design Peter McKintosh), with family present, that would rival any good court room scene and is a highlight ending to Act I. Once assured that Ronnie is telling the truth, he moves forward to defend him.
Mr. Winslow’s wife Grace, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, is typical as the gracious wife but perhaps just a bit too broad accent wise. Their daughter Catherine (Charlotte Parry) walks in her father’s footsteps as an understanding, all knowing and comforting modern woman, who has just become engaged to Army officer John Watherstone (Chandler Willliams). And there is Dickie Winslow (Zachary Booth), older brother to Ronnie, a gadabout student more interested in tennis.
Michael Cumpsty’s performance as Desmond Curry, another suitor at the skirts of daughter Katie, adds to the levity.
It is Roger Rees’ exceptional performance that keeps the audience particularly engaged as we literally see him disintegrate in his plight for justice, principle and what is right.
The production was originated at the Old Vic this past year, is directed by Lindsay Posner, and is now part of the Roundabout’s season continuing thru December 1st at American Airlines Theater, West 42nd Street, NYC, 212 719-1300. Running time: 2 hrs. 40 min.
*Photo: Joan Marcus