Category: Archive

On the Aisle: Legacy of deceit

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

For the past couple of decades, Pete Maloney has been one of New York theater’s most consistently employed character actors, much admired, but never quite building the reputation which the ongoing excellence of his work would seem to indicate he’d earned.
All that may change for the better, considering the remarkable performance he’s currently giving in director David Warren’s sterling revival of Harley Granville-Barker’s 1905 melodrama, “The Voysey Inheritance,” playing at the Atlantic Theater Company through February 11.
Granville-Barker, a prominent British actor, dramatist, producer and Shakespearean scholar who died in 1946 at the age of 69, is now accorded little more than footnote status by many theatrical research sources.
The version being performed at the Atlantic is an adaptation by the American playwright David Mamet, which isn’t as odd as it might appear to be on the surface, since the subject of Granville-Baker’s play is financial skullduggery, a topic of which the Chicago-born writer has made something of a specialty. His best-known play “Glengarry Glen Ross,” is only one example.
In addition, “The Voysey Inheritance” isn’t the first European work Mamet has adapted. In the past, with varying degrees of success, he has come up with, among other things, three new treatments of plays by Anton Chekhov.
The title of Granville-Barker’s play is both bitter and ironic, since what is left behind when the patriarch of a family-owned investment bank dies is a legacy of deceit, thievery and corrupted Edwardian morality.
George Booth, the character played so richly by Peter Maloney, could be the whistle blower in the author’s complex saga of private, and, eventually, public deception and chicanery. It could be said that he brings down he house of Voysey.
The elder Voysey, proud paterfamilias and head of the long-established family firm, a surprisingly brief role essayed by Fritz Weaver with his usual grace and elegance has literally been diverting substantial portions of his clients’ capital for his own purposes, in effect stealing from friends and associates who had trusted him without question, sometimes for years on end.
Of the play’s twelve characters, eight are members of the immediate Voysey family, specifically the parents and their six offspring, four sons and two daughters.
Among them, it falls to Edward, the most sober and responsible of the male progeny, to face up to, and to whatever extent he is able, to settle the dark scores racked up by his father’s covert dealings.
Was it A.E. Housman who wrote “When shall I be dead, and rid of all the wrong my father did?” The lines come to mind as being particularly applicable to the grim situation in which Edward Voysey finds himself, for the most part alone and unsupported, except for his beloved and loyal fianc

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