Maltz Jupiter mounts ‘Inspector Calls’ with melodramatic flourish
Police procedurals have long filled the broadcast airwaves, but in 1945 – before television took over our living rooms – playwright J. B. Priestley employed an inspector’s interrogation of an upper-class British family to plumb the socio-political implications of their shared guilt over a young woman driven to take her own life.
If that sounds heavy, it is, but at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, in a melodramatic production of “An Inspector Calls” filled with stage symbols and pyrotechnic flash, this cerebral crime yarn set in 1912 England – a nation bracing for world war – also manages to be involving entertainment.
Avowed socialist Priestley was intent on dramatizing the ways the various strata of society are interconnected. When the mysterious Inspector Goole arrives at the affluent home of industrialist Arthur Birling to investigate the death of Eva Smith, one-by-one the family members insist they know no such person. But rest assured they will soon learn of their links to the woman and the circumstances of their communal responsibility for her demise.
In contrast to Priestley, the Birlings are avowed capitalists, affluent owners of a successful manufacturing plant in Yorkshire. In today’s terms, they are one-percenters and the have-nots are their employees who are kept poor by management’s eagerness to keep production costs down. At a dinner celebrating the engagement of daughter Sheila to the son of Birling’s chief competitor, patriarch Arthur scoffs at the impending war. After all, he claims with certainty, the world is on the verge of great technical advances, like the soon-to-be-launched largest ocean liner which is said to be
Cliff Burgess (from left), Angie Radosh and Charlotte Bydwell in a scene from Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s production of “An Inspector Calls.”