By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
An Inspector Calls might make a bigger impact were the performances stronger and the direction more interesting. All the actors struggle with their British accents. Laura Bailey as Sheila loses that battle all the way around. And why does the inspector, who presumably comes from a working-class background, use the same accent as the upper-crust Birlings?
The actors also stay stationary too much of the time. They have that enormous set around them but barely use more than a few square feet of space where the living room is located. Too often the actors are positioned in that weakest of all possible blocking choices, the straight line from stage left to stage right.
Other weird little touches prove distracting. Two raggedy urchins (Jimmy Ambrose, Madeleine Crenshaw) crawl out from under the floorboards now and then and watch the action--more symbolism, perhaps, however annoying. And when Act 3 presents the characters in what is presumably modern dress, why is Gerald wearing a Nehru jacket? Or is that a priest's collar? And it's jarring when he pulls out that cell phone.
The beginning and end of each act of An Inspector Calls is punctuated by the loud rumbling of a locomotive engine. That's the perfect sound effect for a production whose train never really leaves the station.