COME MEET "THE WINSLOW BOY"
By Bonnie Goldberg
What might you do if a member of your immediate family were accused of a crime, a crime for which you know in your heart he is innocent of committing? What if that act were not a capital one, not murder or kidnapping? Suppose it was one of robbery, but that theft was not major, not a bank or armored car, but of a 5 shilling postal order, a mere pittance? Think of Jean Valjean and his "crime" of stealing a loaf of bread for his sister's starving children and being imprisoned for more than a dozen years.
Enter into the intense family situation of a cadet, 14 year old Ronnie Winslow as portrayed in "The Winslow Boy" by Sir Terence Rattigan. Square One Theatre in Stratford will hold court on Ronnie's case weekends until Saturday, May 30. Based on a true story and set on the eve of World War I, the drama concerns the theft, Ronnie being identified as the culprit and being expelled from the Royal Naval College at Osbourne. The tale centers on his family's response to the accusation and their implicit faith that Ronnie is innocent.
Leading the charge is Ronnie's stern disciplinarian of a father Arthur, a stalwart Bruce Murray. He will not tolerate this blemish on his son's record, which reflects badly on him but also on the entire family. Sam Noccioli's noble character as Ronnie stands tall against this false pronouncement. To that end, Arthur engages the services of one of the most prestigious attorneys of the day, Sir Robert Morgan, a solidly conscientious Joseph Maker who takes on the task of clearing Ronnie's name.
Also standing on Ronnie's side are his devoted mother Grace (Ann Kinner), his progressive and open minded sister Catherine (Tess Brown) and his jolly and carefree older sibling Dickie (Ryan Hendrickson) who has yet to assume the role of an adult. Even the family solicitor Desmond (David Victor) and the long serving maid Violet (Lucy Babbitt) are squarely in the cadet's corner.
For the two years the court battle ensues, everyone in the family suffers under the cloud of suspicion. Catherine's engagement to John (Jim Buffone), one that coincides with Ronnie's homecoming in disgrace, is shaken at its roots. Dickie's years as a less than dedicated student at Oxford are put into question. Arthur's health, which had never been strong, is subject to the pressures and stresses of the trial while Ronnie must daily defend his actions. Even Violet's long-standing service to the Winslows is put in jeopardy.
Artistic director Tom Holehan keeps the tension taut, while periodically injecting flashes of humor. The entire community cast works together to make us care about Ronnie's fate.
For tickets ($20, $19 students and seniors), call Square One Theatre, 2422 Main Street, Stratford at 203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., with a twilight matinee at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 30.