Fair warning for those who are glad to be done with holiday shows: Mosaic Productions is springing one more on us with The Voysey Inheritance. Admittedly, it’s not a very merry Christmas for the Voyseys, who’ve just learned that their dear departed paterfamilias was a colossal fraud. Maybe it was just as well to hold this show until the new year.
The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts
Mosaic Productions debuted a year ago with Almost, Maine, a strong staging of an insubstantial play. For its third production (the second was the well-received Fringe show Gruesome Playground Injuries), the company returns to the Tek Box with a far more sophisticated script. Harley Granville-Barker’s 1905 play is effectively adapted and directed by Michael Dufault, for a show that’s not flashy but ultimately absorbing.
In the first scene, London financier Trenchard Voysey (George M. Calger) breaks it to Edward (Taylor Evans), his son and business partner, that the family business has been built on illegal shenanigans for the past two generations. Both Trenchard and his father invested company funds for personal gain, with the result that much of the capital invested by clients like their family friend George Booth (Hazen B. Markoe) is no longer at hand.
When Trenchard dies, Edward faces a decision. Does he declare bankruptcy and face potential prosecution, or does he carry on and try to right his forebears’ wrongs over time? By the standards of the stage, that’s a fairly subtle moral crisis. The same goes for the decisions faced by his siblings, who Edward suggests should return the significant amounts of ill-gotten money given to them by their father.
With no one getting shot or chased or even drunk, Dufault and his cast have to create sharply drawn characters whose diverse reactions to their state of affairs will hold the audience’s interest. They trust their viewers’ intelligence, and that pays off.
At the play’s opening, Trenchard, Booth, and the Voysey son who is also Booth’s namesake (Daniel Kristian Vopova) are holding forth with a convincingly obnoxious sense of entitlement. By show’s close, the humbled Edward is in quiet conversation with his cousin Alice (Heather Burmeister). That progression is key to the play’s effect: It’s like how teachers lower their voices when they really want to get your attention.
The set is simple but effective, layering spaces so we can see the reactions of background characters. Reactions, small and large, are key to this play, creating nice moments such as the look on the face of Booth Voysey’s wife (Mariah Christensen) as her pretentious husband drops some would-be wisdom about marriage.
Not all the performances are so spot-on, but all in all this is a strong staging of a smart script. Your brain will be so consistently exercised, you might be surprised to discover that these tenderly drawn characters have laid claim to your heart as well.
The Voysey Inheritance
JSB Tek Box at Cowles Center
528 Hennepin Ave. #215, Minneapolis
mosaicproductionsmn.com; through January 14
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