Themes For Today Echo In “The Winslow Boy” At The Rep

Jay Stratton as Sir Robert Morton and Jeff Hayenga as Arthur Winslow in the Rep's production of "The Winslow Boy." Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Jay Stratton as Sir Robert Morton and Jeff Hayenga as Arthur Winslow in the Rep’s production of “The Winslow Boy.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

The Terence Rattigan script, “The Winslow Boy,” was written in 1946 but it is set in the years before The Great War and is based on a real case from that era. Weaving a story of the young cadet at the center of the story, Mr. Rattigan fleshes out the script in magnificent fashion as he introduces a myriad of characters from the Winslow family itself and several people that touch their lives during the search for truth and justice in an England that was not very willing to buckle under to something as mundane as clearing a family name. After a recent revival in England and in New York, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis puts their defining stamp on this magnificent play that rings as true today as it did those many years ago.

Peggy Billo as Violet and Jeff Hayenga as Arthur in "The Winslow Boy" at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Carol Schultz as Grace and Jeff Hayenga as Arthur in “The Winslow Boy” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Young Ronnie Winslow has been expelled from the Royal Naval College, accused of filching a 5-pound postal note and cashing it. Claiming his innocence after a struggle to reveal the circumstances to his father, he suffers through a two year ordeal where he and his family are dragged through the mud as “innocent until proven guilty” is never considered. In those days the tabloids acted much as they still do today, raking someone over the coals before a shred of proof can be offered. The music halls were the equivalent of today’s late night talk shows as they also ridiculed the family- again never allowing for the fact that he may be innocent of said charges.

Kathleen Wise as Catherine and William Connell as John in the Rep's production of "The Winslow Boy." Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Kathleen Wise as Catherine and William Connell as John in the Rep’s production of “The Winslow Boy.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Jeff Hayenga leads the cast of “The Winslow Boy” as Arthur. As patriarch of the family, he believes in his 13-year old son as he refutes the charges. Never reprimanding or rushing to judgement, he remains calm even as he goes through the family’s fortunes to clear the son’s- and the family’s name. Jay Stalder is strong as the young Ronnie, especially in the closing scene of Act I where he is grilled by one of the most successful and feared barristers of the day, Sir Robert Morton. Jay Stratton cuts an imposing figure as Morton as his love/hate relationship with Ronnie’s sister, Catherine, becomes a secondary focal point in the drama.

Jeff Hayenga as Arthur and Jay Stalder as Ronnie in "The Winslow Boy" at the Rep. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Jeff Hayenga as Arthur and Jay Stalder as Ronnie in “The Winslow Boy” at the Rep. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Kathleen Wise is simply stunning as Catherine. A budding suffragette, she can’t accept the demanding and egotistical tactics of Sir Robert and fights him tooth and nail until their final confrontation at play’s end where they find common ground. William Connell is a strong suitor who is actually engaged to Catherine until his insistence that she convince her father to drop the boy’s case to save face for the family. A strong willed Catherine finds fault with his opinions. The delightful Michael James Reed as Desmond Curry- a long time friend of the family and another suitor for Catherine’s affections- hits all the right marks of a man stumbling over his feelings in pursuit of a beautiful woman.

Michael James Reed as a would-be suitor to Kathleen Wise's Catherine in the Rep's production of "The Winslow Boy." Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Michael James Reed as a would-be suitor to Kathleen Wise’s Catherine in the Rep’s production of “The Winslow Boy.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Carol Schultz is rock-steady as the matriarch of the Winslow clan who stands by her son and husband as they pursue justice at the expense of their comfortable lifestyle. Peggy Billo is a treat as the long time maid, Violet, who has no problem in expressing her opinion in all of the family affairs. Hunter Canning is the older brother of Ronnie, Dickie, who lives the life of a playboy in contrast to his younger, more serious brother. Rounding out the cast are Amy Loui and Kai Klose, both doing fine work.

Jay Stratton as Sir Robert grills Jay Stalder as Ronnie in "The Winslow Boy" at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Jay Stratton as Sir Robert grills Jay Stalder as Ronnie in “The Winslow Boy” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Rep Artistic Director, Steven Woolf has directed this production with style and panache. Crisp, clean and to the point, the play rambles along before you even realize you’ve spent two and a half hours watching the trial and the family crises unfolding in the living room of the Winslow home in Kensington. He brings out every nuance and every moment of humor that spark the wonderful story and delightful language in Terence Rattigan’s script. Every detail in the technical side of the play is also addressed as John Ezell has provided a stunning, sprawling set worthy of a wealthy family and, as the second act indicates, the declining wealth of that family as the expense of the trial takes its toll. Dorothy Marshall Englis’s costumes are period perfect and Rob Denton has lit the whole experience beautifully.

A drama with an almost drawing room comedy feel at times, “The Winslow Boy” takes us into another era but reminds us of how little things have changed in the last hundred years. This is a stunning piece of theatre that has been given a gorgeous production at the Rep. Don’t miss “The Winslow Boy” as it plays on the Mainstage at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through March 8th. Give them a call at 314-968-4925 or contact them at http://www.repstl.org for tickets or more information.

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