Wrong Time for 'Time and the Conways'
I love Rachel Taichman. I love Elizabeth McGovern. I think J.B. Priestley is a fine playwright. I think the acting, direction, and design of the current production is good. But the Roundabout's of "Time and the Conways" is problematic. This play is one for the history books and doesn't have any business being staged in our current social, political and environmental climate.
By the time intermission rolled around, I still had hope that the show would deliver a resonant message or strike home in some way but it didn't. As a result, I stewed in the moments following curtain thinking, "Why was this staged?" I have a problem with the fact that this play was deliberately selected and slotted for a coveted spot in the current Broadway season. Priestly wrote the play in 1937 and sure, the issue of time is, well, timeless but given the state of our world, I felt a little guilty sitting in the theatre watching a tired family drama play out.
Theatrical dinosaurs such as this have no business being onstage right now. Before you get out the pitchforks and torches, I'm not suggesting we burn them but I suggest we put them up on the highest shelf and make a vow to dust them off when the dust that is the shit that's going on in the world has settled. Right now, let's choose to make and go to theatre that forces us to face what's going on in the world and incite a conversation when we leave.
In 2017 we should be talking about gun control, racism, border control, LGBTQ issues, healthcare, women's rights, etc. etc. etc. It's irresponsible to mount productions that lift the curtain and show us the intimate lives of rich white people. This country has been living that story for too long. It's time for something else.
And yes, I know that theatre is a form of escapism and people often go to forget about the issues plaguing our troubled world. I have no problem with that. But I'm not worried about Broadway musicals losing ticket sales anytime soon. Also, except for "Cats" I can point to very relevant and important messages in shows like "Book of Mormon" and "Dear Evan Hansen." Plays are another thing. We should be supporting and encouraging people to buy tickets to straight plays, but "Time and the Conways" is not going to do that.
How about we shift our focus from staging shows by dead white guys to investing in living artists like Danai Gurira, Lynn Nottage, Paula Vogel, Suzan Lori-Parks, Anna Deveare Smith, Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins and Will Eno just to name a few? There was a time in history when theatre was so readily available, so prolific and so accepted as a common form of entertainment that there was room on the bill for everything from the profound to the mundane. Until we get to a point where theatre rivals Netflix or we start to stop treating each other like assholes, let's stick "Time and the Conways" back where it belongs: on a shelf.