An Inspector Calls

By J.B. Priestley


Directed by Carol Dolphin
February 1 to 17, 2013


Read the Reviews:

Waukesha Freeman, WaukeshaNOW

Photos:
Click on a photo to see a larger image

Photos By Carroll Studios Of Photography

Volunteer of the Production

Ralph Garcia

Sponsored In Part By

WCT projects are supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

Cast 

James Boylan

Gerald

Allison Chicorel

Sheila Birling

Michael Elftman

Eric Birling

Ralph Frattura

Mr. Birling

Ralph M. Garcia

Inspector

Mary Rynders

Mrs. Birling

Cindy Velcheck

Edna

Production Staff 

Director

Carol Dolphin

Stage Manager

Jennifer Allen

Lighting Designer

Jeff Smerz

Costume Designer

Sharon Sohner

Sound Designer

John Santroch

Properties Designer

Monica Santroch

Wig Master

Anthony Mackie

Scenic Designer, Master Carpenter, and Set Decorator

Michael Talaska

Civic Theatre's 'Inspector Calls' gripping mystery

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic
February 7, 2013

WAUKESHA - J.B. Priestley died a month short of his 90th birthday, and during his near-century of life, he certainly made good use of his time.

He served in World War I, wrote social, political and literary commentary, published countless novels and plays and was a commentator on BBC until Winston Churchill had him fired for his socialist views. He was hated by some but loved and admired by many.

“An Inspector Calls,” one of his most popular works, now gracing the stage at Waukesha Civic Theatre, is more than an engaging mystery. It allows Priestley to express some of his views on social injustice and the ethics of taking responsibility for one’s own actions. The inspector is a somewhat arcane figure who arrives upon the scene of a celebratory occasion and turns it into a scathing probe into the consciences of all the characters.

Two prominent families are soon to unite through the marriage of Gerald Croft and Sheila Birling. Both families own profitable mills and live very comfortably.

Arthur Birling, a self-impressed, successful entrepreneur is also involved in civic affairs as is his wife, Sybil, who raises money for the indigent. She is a self-righteous woman who values propriety and “appearances” above all else.

Their two children, Sheila and Eric, enjoy their privileged status but also have views that differ from those of their parents. Sheila’s fiancŽ, Gerald, seems like a man who gauges his actions in terms of his own self-interest, but he proves more complex as his character reveals itself. Eric is a bit of a time bomb, and his unpredictability surfaces in direct proportion to his next drink. A very fascinating group of characters gathered in the sumptuous Birling living room. (Good scenic design by Michael Talaska.)

The unexpected arrival of Inspector Goole is the catalyst for all that follows in this enthralling story that unites and connects all the characters in varying degrees to the suicide of an impoverished young woman named Eva Smith. The inspector, mesmerizingly played by Ralph M. Garcia, demands all the characters’ attention as well as ours. Masterfully done.

Ralph Frattura captures the puffed-up superiority of Arthur; and Mary Rynders, the prim, prickly snobbishness of his wife, Sybil.

Priestley is definitely caricaturing the upper class here. The younger generation fare better from his pen - Sheila proves to be more than a pretty face who loves fashion. Allison Chicorel gives a polished, nuanced performance. James Boylan as Gerald proves to be many-layered, as well. Eric, as rendered by Michael Elftman, is fascinating to watch as he skulks around the edges but finally gets the spotlight.

Very ably directed by the astute Carol Dolphin, this production holds our interest throughout. Some impressive tech work by Jeff Smerz (lighting) and John Santroch (sound). The costuming by Sharon Sohner also added a wealthy flavor.

As a whole, this production gets high marks.

Review Title

By Reviewer Name
Posted: Month 16, 2012

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WCT's 'Inspector' pays attention to details

Superior cast gives Priestley mystery classic treatment

By Marilyn Jozwik - WaukeshaNOW Theater Critic
Feb. 5, 2013

I can't remember the last time the thick, blood-red curtains at Waukesha Civic Theatre were closed before the start of a show.

Normally, the lights are dim on the set and when the characters take their places, the lights illuminate the scene.

Perhaps it was fitting for this classic J.B. Priestley play, "An Inspector Calls," to open in the more traditional way.

It was the first of many good moves made by WCT.

In the hands of a lesser community theater group, this show could turn into a tedious talky. Instead, the mystery is well-crafted and captivating under the direction of local theater veteran Carol Dolphin.

What elevates this show is how well each actor defines his/her character so that the audience feels they are real - maybe even like someone they know - and not just ciphers delivering Priestley's message.

"An Inspector Calls" takes place in the parlor of the Birlings, a well-to-do family in an industrial town in England. The year is 1912, just before World War I.

When the show opens, the Birlings - Arthur (Ralph Frattura) and Sybil (Mary Rynders) - are celebrating the engagement of their daughter Sheila ((Allison Chicorel) to Gerald (James Boylan). Also present is the Birlings' son, Eric (Michael Elftman). We learn a lot about the family in those opening moments - Arthur is opinionated, self-righteous and boastful. He fancies himself a smart, tough businessman and brags about his stature in the community as he lectures his future son-in-law. In themeantime, Eric skirts the sidelines of the scenes, drinking too much, out of the family's circle and out of his father's favor.

Out of the blue, the maid Edna (Cindy Velcheck) announces that a police inspector is at the door. And the congenial family immediately turns sour.

The inspector (Ralph M. Garcia) delivers news of a young woman's suicide. At first, no one knows why the family is being questioned, but gradually the inspector uncovers information that shows how each knew the woman in some way. In the process, family secrets are revealed and family dynamics drastically change as each learns how their actions affected this woman. But the real mystery is, Who is this inspector?

"We all started so confident and pleased with ourselves, until he started asking questions," says Sheila.

While Gerald reasons with the inspector that they are "respectable citizens, not dangerous people … or criminals," the inspector replies, "There's not much difference."

The show is carefully constructed, with each character revealing an unsavory side during the inspector's questioning. The ramifications of their actions are clearly stated as the inspector admonishes, "We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We're responsible for each other."

It would be easy for this homily - sort of a "treat others as you would have others treat you" - to become preachy. But Dolphin has assembled a cast that really draws in the audience. Almost more important than the characters speaking, are those reacting to what the characters are saying.

Chicorel's Sheila goes from girlish gaiety during her engagement celebration to bitter disappointment as her fiance's past is revealed. The withering looks she plants on Gerald as he explains his indiscretions speak just as loudly as the character speaking.

And though there is virtually no action in the play, the actors' constant movements - as they pace in nervousness, or just to think more clearly - helps to quickly move the story forward. The audience is kept entertained watching the characters interact, gauging their integrity as they speak and honing in on their expressions as others speak. Body language; looks of indignation, surprise or horror; exasperated grunts and groans buoyed every scene.

Whenever the inspector revealed a bit of damning evidence on opening night, the offending character reacted enough to be seen in the last row, yet didn't overact. That is a tightrope to maneuver for even the most accomplished actor.

Perhaps the most difficult role is that of the head of the house, Arthur Birling. Frattura maintains the character's stuffiness and self-righteousness throughout.

Garcia as the inspector is like a wasp at a picnic - creating a stir wherever he lands. His character, perhaps, could have been a little more understated at times so that Birling wouldn't have felt the need to ramp up his anger andindignation sometimes to the point of looking comical.

Another key element of the show is the attention to detail. From the period hairstyles to the elegant costuming - the men in cutaways and tails to the women dressed to the nines in long, elegant gowns - the characters look as though they stepped out of Downton Abbey.

The set, too, is lavish. The hunter green wallpaper is the perfect backdrop for the elegant, dusty rose-colored seating, while other set pieces help establish the family's lifestyle.

Even the opening remarks - about cellphones, etc. - were charmingly delivered in character by the Cockney maid (Velcheck), a harbinger of good things to come during the next two hours.

Volunteer of the Production - Ralph Garcia

Ralph was always willing to do anything to help the production. He assisted in taping the floor outline for rehearsal, setup and removed the rehearsal set each night, and helped with picking up furniture for the show. All this was in addition to preparing for his role on-stage. He was always prepared, prompt, and personable.