Time and the Conways, starring Downton Abbey lead Elizabeth McGovern, is J.B. Priestley’s 1937 drawing-room play about a well-to-do family in post-World War I England. The first act takes place circa 1919, the second takes us forward to 1937, and the third act returns to 1919. A Roundabout Theatre production at the American Airlines Theatre, this is a slow, plodding drama concerning the Conway family and their trials and tribulations from wealth to financial woes. Act III examines the excesses and flaws of the main characters’ personalities. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
Director Rebecca Taichman, who won a Tony earlier this year for Indecent, adeptly straddles the time and space continuum of going from 1919 to 1937 and back again. Her direction is poignant and true to the material, but as the saying goes, “you are only as good as the material.” This is a slow, plodding show with some highlights. The actors provide good performances, but the material is dated and weak.
The rise and fall of the upper class in England and the foibles of family relationships are constant themes. For audiences, the issue is clear: Does the play maintain your interest, or will there be a rapid exit after the first act?
If you enjoy a slow English-style drawing-room drama, this is a show for you.