Inspired by the Archer-Shee case of 1908, this play stirringly dramatizes one-man's fight against the weight of officialdom, in this case the British Admiralty. Retaining principal elements of the legal battle that once shook a nation, playwright Terence Rattigan tells how retired bank manager Arthur Winslow (Ralph Clanton) goes about clearing the name of his son Ronnie (David Haller). Winslow acts with courage and unswerving resolution when he becomes convinced that Ronnie is innocent of the petty theft for which he has been expelled from Osborne Naval College.
"The Winslow Boy" apparently has not been acted professionally in New York since its 1947 Broadway premiere. As if to make up for the prolonged neglect, the Roundabout Theater Company has mounted a stalwart production. Within the modest confines of the company's Stage Two basement arena, the performance directed by Douglas Seale seizes upon all the salient strengths of a humanly appealing drama about a wrenching family ordeal. This means responding to the light touch of comedy with which Rattigan skillfully leavens his perceptive study of the emotional conflicts that ensure when family and personal loyalties are placed under stress.
The Roundabout revival is strongest where it counts most. Mr. Clanton's portrait of the crusty, implacable, yet paternally compassionate Arthur Winslow, for instance. And Giulia Pagano's finely sensed Catherine Winslow, the feminist daughter who never falters in her support of what sometimes seems like a lost cause. Remak Ramsay as Sir Robert Morton, the barrister whose coldness and reserve mask a passionate dedication to the triumph of right, is also strong. It is a magnificent part and Mr. Ramsay plays it magnificently. "The Winslow Boy" is also helped by the performances of young Mr. Haller (Ronnie), Elizabeth Owens (Mrs. Winslow), Lee Toombs (brother Dickie), and others in the nine-member cast.
Save for the heavy but unseen hand of bureaucracy, there are no villains in "The Winslow Boy." This is a play about honorable people, about civil rights and civil behavior. Some of the play's concerns have to an extent become unfashionable -- as indeed Rattigan himself had seemed to for a while. There is more than a touch of Shavian moral passion to "The Winslow Boy" and the Roundabout deserves due credit for this high-minded production. Roger Mooney has designed the modest Kensington drawing room where the pre1914 action takes place. The costumes are by A. Christina Giannini.