HTC Season Kicks Off With An Unusual British Thriller

Susan Galardi, Edward A. Brennan and Amanda Griemsmann. Tom Kochie photo.
Susan Galardi, Edward A. Brennan and Amanda Griemsmann. Tom Kochie photo.

The Hampton Theatre Company in Quogue launches into its 31st season today with a British thriller unlike any you have seen before.

J.B Priestley’s “An Inspector Calls” is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its first production this year.  The play takes place in England on a single evening, April 15, 1912, the night of the sinking of the Titanic, and the evening before the BBC drama “Downton Abbey” begins its storyline.

The play is about a prosperous family torn apart when a mysterious police officer comes to call, asking questions about a tragic suicide, said Sarah Hunnewell, HTC’s Executive Director, who directs this production.

“The play had been in mothballs for decades until Stephen Daldry in England resurrected it 1992,” she said. “Everybody loved it again. It’s very, very gripping material.”

“It’s an interesting piece and we’re really curious to see how people will respond to it,” she said. “People will come and find it’s not what they’re expecting. It is a mystery for sure, but not in the conventional sense.”

Ms. Hunnewell said the play was written in 1945, at the end of World War II, but looking back at “a moment that was really considered by many to be the pinnacle of British success and the British Empire.”

“Over the years, J.B. Priestley became thought of as a musty, old-fashioned sort of playwright, but he was very much a radical for his day,” said Ms. Hunnewell. “The play takes place at a time where in England there was terrible poverty and a huge gap between the rich and the poor. There were strikes to the point where there was almost revolution in the air, had there not been World War I bringing everyone together.”

“Huge wars have great democratizing effect,” she added. “People of all classes have to work shoulder to shoulder for a common goal. I think Priestley was hoping and praying it wouldn’t go back to the way it had been.”

Amanda Griemsmann and Edward A. Brennan. Tom Kochie photo.
Amanda Griemsmann and Edward A. Brennan. Tom Kochie photo.

Edward Brennan, who most recently appeared with the HTC in “The Drawer Boy,” plays the mysterious Inspector Goole. Arthur Birling, the patriarch of the family, is played by HTC newcomer Daren Kelly, whose credits include the Broadway productions of “Deathtrap,” “Crazy For You” and “South Pacific.”

Susan Galardi makes her HTC debut in the role of family matriarch, Sybil Birling. HTC newcomer Spencer Scott plays the Birling’s troubled son Eric.

Amanda Griemsmann and Anthony Famulari, who appeared last spring in HTC’s “Hay Fever,” play the young couple, Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft.

“We’re thrilled to have them back. They’re doing a wonderful job,” said Ms. Hunnewell.

Peter-Tolin Baker, who began designing excellent sets for the theater company last year, returns as set designer for this production.

Ms. Hunnewell said this season offers the theater company’s trademark variety of types of plays, both old and new, comedic and dramatic, experimental and within the regional theater canon.

The season continues with a production of Theresa Rebeck’s “Dead Accounts” from January 14 through 31.

“It’s about the contrast between New York Wall Street values and midwestern wholesome values,” said Ms. Hunnewell. The play centers around a financier working in Manhattan who seeks refuge with his family in the midwest after becoming involved in a fraud.

The Hampton Theatre Company produced Ms. Rebeck’s “Mauritius” several years ago.

“This is sort of a tongue-in-cheek, contemporary comedy,” said Ms. Hunnewell of “Dead Accounts.”

“It’s a new, relatively unknown play brought to us by [Veteran HTC actor and director] Andrew Botsford.”

Mr. Botsford will direct.

From March 31 through April 17, the company will stage a production of Neil Simon’s classic “Lost in Yonkers,” directed by George Loizides, a longtime HTC actor and director who is returning to the company after a hiatus.

Mr. Loizides had directed the company’s 2009 female production of Simon’s “The Odd Couple.”

Ms. Hunnewell said she believes “Lost in Yonkers,” one of Simon’s serious autobiographical plays, is his greatest work, and the company plans to bring in some of their best veteran actors for this production.

The season concludes on a light note with Christopher Durang’s zany comedy, “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike” from May 26 through June 12.

“It was a huge hit on Broadway. It’s a little bit of a take on Chekhov but you don’t have to know anything about Chekhov,” said Ms. Hunnewell. “It’s a very crazy comedy. We like to end on something that will be fun.”

Diana Marbury will direct.

“An Inspector Calls” opens tonight, October 22, and runs through November 8 at the Quogue Community Hall on Jessup Avenue. Showtimes are Thursdays and Fridays at 7, Saturdays at 8, and Sundays at 2:30.

Tickets are available at www.hamptontheatre.org, or by calling OvationTix at 1-866-811-4111.

Season subscriptions and other packages are available on the website as well.

 

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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