A mysterious man interrupts a wealthy family in the midst of a celebration, and begins to question them about the death of a young woman. What follows is an engaging exploration into class conflict that has kept theater fans in Salem on the edge of their seats since opening night.
“An Inspector Calls” premiered at Salem’s Pentacle Theatre on Jan. 13, and will run through Saturday, Feb. 4.
Director Isaac Joyce-Shaw said he’s enjoyed watching the audience’s reactions to a play that takes a familiar format in unexpected directions.
“I would definitely think that someone who likes those “Knives Out” movies would like this,” he said. The popular movies critique excessive wealth through the lens of a murder mystery with an ensemble cast.
“It’s got a similar perspective of those films, and it is similarly surprising and engaging in terms of the development of the plot,” he said.
The play takes place in the early 1900s, in an industrial town in the English Midlands. It revolves around a wealthy family, and an engagement party interrupted by a mysterious man – Inspector Goole.
Facades begin to crumble when the inspector questions the family members about the recent suicide of a young woman in town who had previously led a worker’s strike.
The play, written by J. B. Priestley, premiered in 1945 at the end of World War II. It will be the fourth play Joyce-Shaw has directed at the Pentacle, and one he’s enjoyed working with for its natural dialogue and creative stage design.
Joyce-Shaw said he’s lucky to have a cast with a commanding stage presence and an ability to drive the action forward. Salemite Gregory Jolivette plays Inspector Goole, and he is joined by both veteran actors and newcomers.
Even though the play is over 75 years old, Joyce-Shaw said its themes resonate with audiences today who still live in a world with stark wealth inequality and an economic system relying on resource extraction.
“We’ve got some consequences of that inequality showing up in the very fabric of the world we exist in,” he said. “I think it’s one of those shows that’s – unfortunately – still very relevant today. Even more so, I think, than it was when it was written.”
“An Inspector Calls” runs through Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Pentacle Theatre, 324 52nd Ave. N.W.
Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday matinee begins at 2 p.m. Doors open 45 minutes before showtime.
Tickets are available online or by calling the office at 503-485-4300. Prices range from $17 to $37, with 50% discounts available to frontline healthcare workers, students and Oregon Trail Card holders. The play is recommended for people 13 and older.
Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.
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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.