When Kay Conway stares ahead searchingly and speaks what she believes is a numbing truth—"There's a great devil in the universe, and we call it time"—you feel the chill in her heart. Are we captives of something inexorable? It's then up to Kay's brother Alan to remind her that time, daunting as it may be, is about joy as much as woe.
The notion and the workings of time loomed large in the mind of British playwright J.B. Priestly. Time and the Conways, now on stage at The Old Globe Theatre, was one of Priestly's "Time Plays" written during the 1930s and '40s. This Globe production, directed with the light touch of a second hand in motion by Rebecca Taichman, is a stirring experience.
You don't necessarily expect a costume drama set initially in the immediate aftermath of World War I to wash over you so completely. But as Time and the Conways' flamboyant characters go from present to past and back to present again, they become as fascinating as time itself.
Central among them is Kay Conway (Amanda Quaid), the manor's intellectual presence, who's resolved to become a statement-making novelist. Even in Act 1, on the occasion of her 21st birthday, when she's instructing her siblings in a game of charades, Kay's arch determination is at the fore. In Act 2, 19 years later, Kay is 40, and her grand vision is blurred by compromise and disillusionment. She's not a broken woman, but there's a crack in her will. How she came to such a state is revealed in Act 3, which returns the narrative to the evening of Kay's party. The thread between all three acts, which morph from one to the other with slow movement of the sets and the heart-rending notes of a piano, is unrelenting time.
Kay's not the only Conway with a checkered fate. Sister Hazel (Rose Hemingway) is destined for an abusive marriage, Madge (Morgan Hallett) and brother Alan (Jonathan Fielding) for loneliness, brother Robin (Lee Aaron Rosen) for professional and marital failure and sister-with-a-heart-of-gold Carol (Leanne Agmon) for worse. Not only Quaid, but also Fielding, Hallett and Agmon bring tremendous poignancy to their characters, even in the first-act merrymaking before all the ominous signs emerge.
Time and the Conways runs through May 4 at The Old Globe Theatre. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
Mandate Memories: This is a world premiere of a drama about an elderly Holocaust survivor who pays a visit to a British woman whose father was killed by Jewish terrorists. Opens in previews on April 9 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Off the Cuff: Improvisational comedy. It happens on April 12 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patio
The Outgoing Tide: A free reading of a newish drama about a elderly man with dementia who has different ideas than his wife about the remainder of their life together. It happens on April 15 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. north
Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure: In this adaptation by Steven Dietz, the famous detective is at the end of his career but is drawn into one last case. Opens April 11 at Coronado Playhouse.
Tricks: This one opened April 2, but we missed it last week. A world premiere presented by Chronos Theatre Group, it's about two gay men who must confront their families, each other and themselves. For adult audiences. It's showing at 10th Avenue Theatre in East Village. chronostheatre.com
Water by the Spoonful: The life of an Iraq War veteran intersects with those of four strangers in an Internet chat room for recovering drug addicts. Opens April 12 at The Old Globe Theatre. oldglobe.org
Becky's New Car: A woman who works for a car dealership is bored in her marriage and begins living a double life after she meets a wealthy widower. Through April 13 at PowPAC in Poway. Powpac.org
The Foreigner: A comedy about a sad Brit, a guest at a Georgia fishing lodge, who pretends to speak no English so he doesn't have to talk to anyone and ends up having to save the lodge from the Ku Klux Klan. Through April 13 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
All My Sons: Arthur Miller's award-winning drama, set in 1946, is about the lengths to which a successful businessman has gone in order to provide a secure financial future for his two sons. Presented by Intrepid Shakespeare Company, it runs through April 19 at San Dieguito Academy Performing Arts Centre in Encinitas. intrepidshakespeare.com
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: In this Stephen Sondheim musical farce, a slave in ancient Rome schemes to win his freedom by delivering the object of his young master's affection, but, of course, everything goes haywire. Presented by Broadway Vista, it runs through April 20 at Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido. broadwayvista.com
The Liar: An adaptation by David Ives of a 17th-century play about a man who tells multiple fibs as he courts one of two sisters, mistakenly believing she's the other sibling. Through April 27 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Quilters: A musical about the lives of pioneer women in the American Old West. Through April 27 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Red: A successful abstract-expressionist painter must create a piece for the Four Seasons restaurant but is dogged by persistent challenges from his opinionated assistant. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through April 27 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
Spring Awakening: That awakening is a sexual one, experienced by young adults in a small German town, set to music by Duncan Sheik. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it opens runs through April 27 at The Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Time and the Conways: This philosophical drama follows a British family from hope in 1919 to desperation in 1937 and then returns to 1919 to show how things started to go wrong. Through May 4 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
To Kill a Mockingbird: The classic drama with the best character names in the history of film or theater: Atticus, Scout, Gem, Dill and Boo. Through May 4 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.com
Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net