By Diana Saenger
Many can attest that present actions often spark from past occurrences. This idea runs through the decades in J.B. Priestley’s “Time and the Conways,” now playing at The Old Globe Theatre.
A lavish 1919 sofa, small table and two chairs in front of a beautifully decorated wall belie the home of widowed Mrs. Conway (Kim Martin-Cotten) and some of her children.
The mood is festive as they host a big birthday party for Kay (Amanda Quaid), which revolves around a game of charades. She and her sisters — the worrisome Carol (Leanne Agmon), trying-to-be-interested Madge (Morgan Hallett) and arrogant Hazel (Rose Hemingway) — flit about throwing different apparel on each other and dashing off through the door to what we assume is the ballroom (since the audience hears the gaiety, but does not see it).
Joining the fun is friend Joan Helford (Sarah Manton) and brother Alan Conway (Jonathan Fielding) a stutterer who watches, far more than he speaks, but makes more sense than most of the others.
When part of the costuming includes a coat worn by their father, a tamper falls on the cheerful atmosphere, especially for Carol, who admits that when others are happy and excited she often thinks of bad things.
The down mood becomes even more evident when mother enters the room to announce she’s not used to happiness. It’s soon apparent several family members are not happy — Kay’s journalism career is not up to her liking and Alan takes verbal abuse from his mother when she admits she forgets he’s a man.
But the party must go on as Mrs. Conway throws a Spanish shawl on her shoulder and becomes a singing smash star — at least in her own eyes.
Madge shows obvious interest in the family attorney, Gerald Thornton (Leo Marks), when he arrives bringing along Ernest Beevers (Max Gordon Moore), who is overly interested in Joan. When Robin Conway (Lee Aaron Rosen) finally shows up in his military uniform, he begins drinking too much and hitting on Joan, who is happy over his attentions.
Close to this point (and intermission), the set begins moving to the rear of the stage as a new one with the exact-looking set pieces behind it, comes down to replace it.
It is 19 years later, and the family members again fill the room. They’ve come to find out how their mother is doing after their deceased father left everything to her. They’re not prepared for what their attorney tells them — or that their mother is no longer the singing beauty.
The cast is wonderful, although some of the dialogue is a little hard to decipher through the British accents.
Some of the lines feel like filler instead of what Priestley really was trying to say about time: Don’t bet on a situation as you would like it to be to avoid ghastly disappointment years later when it’s entirely different.•
If you go
: “Time and the Conways” runs through May 4 at The Old Globe Theatre’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park. Tickets from $29. (619) 234-5623. TheOldGlobe.org