Sometimes called a modern morality play and written by English playwright J. B. Priestley, AN INSPECTOR CALLS is considered by many to be one of the classics of twentieth century English theater. Not one to hide his political leanings, Priestley crafted the play as a suspenseful expression of his socialist political views. A war between capitalism and socialism ensues – and it is no surprise that AN INSPECTOR CALLS was first performed in the Soviet Union in 1945. The following year, the play was produced in London, a highly successful event which many consider one of Priestley’s greatest works. When theater of social realism became the fashion In the 1950s and 1960s, AN INSPECTOR CALLS was rarely presented in large theaters but became a favorite of regional repertory theater. By 1992, the play was revived and has since again become popular for theater-goers. The Kentwood Players proudly present AN INSPECTOR CALLS in 2023 directed by James Rice. When queried about the play, Rice noted that
“The play examines Victorian and Edwardian society in the Gilded Age…for me, it is a predecessor of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and “The Twilight Zone”…a morality tale with a strong and startling twist at the end…its message of man’s commitment and responsibility to his fellow man.”
Ben Lupejkis, Ren Warzecha, and Chiquita Fuller – Photo by Gloria Plunkett
The time is 1912, and the place is a sumptuous mansion in the industrial town of Brumley, UK. Arthur Birling (Ben Lupejkis) is a wealthy factory owner and local politician, and he and his wife Sybil (Lisa J. Salas) are hosting the engagement party of their daughter Sheila (Ran Warzecha) to Gerald Croft (Aaron Hagler), a rival magnate’s son. Their own son Eric (Payton Ross) has also come, and family members discreetly ignore his obvious drinking problem. But suddenly, there is a knock at the door, a knock which will change their lives forever. At the door is Inspector Goole (Chiquita Fuller), investigating the suicide of a young woman named Eva Smith. As it turns out, each of the members of the engagement party has encountered Ms. Smith before – and thereby hangs the tale. Just who is Inspector Goole and why has he come to the Birling home? What were the circumstances of each Birling family member’s encounter with Eva Smith? And why does it matter anyway?
Chiquita Fuller and Ben Lupejkis – Photo by Gloria Plunkett
Director Rice helms the play with an eye to the layered and nuanced messages hidden within. He is ably assisted by the talented cast, with special kudos to Ben Lupejkis as Arthur Birling and Ren Warzecha as Sheila Birling. The production team does its usual excellent job of making sure that the environment is equal to the story. The stage is well fitted out as an elegant early twentieth century parlor, and the cast wear costume designer Michael Mullen’s period clothing with confidence. To round out the team, Daniel Mitchener’s lighting and Susan Stangl’s sound deftly define scenes and events.
Ben Lupejkis and Ren Warzecha – Photo by Gloria Plunkett
AN INSPECTOR CALLS remains a timely and gripping mystery, as well as an indictment of wealth and power. It is also entertaining and fascinating in a historical perspective. Audiences will certainly find AN INSPECTOR CALLS an enjoyable and thought-provoking evening.
AN INSPECTOR CALLS Poster – Photo courtesy of Kentwood Players
AN INSPECTOR CALLS runs through October 7, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. From 9/23/23 to 10/7/23, Saturday matinees will be added at 2 p.m. The Kentwood Players perform at the Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90045. Tickets are $25 ($4 discounts for senior and students; $19 for groups of 10+; Pay-What-You-Can at 2 p.m. on Saturday, 9/23/23). For information and reservations, call 310-645-5156 or go online.