SALT LAKE CITY — A year after staging Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” Pioneer Theatre Company is returning with another story that's about more than it first appears to be.
PTC's presentation of J.B. Priestley's English classic "An Inspector Calls," which runs Feb. 19-March 5 at Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, shares messages that become deeper the longer one looks and that are particularly relevant today, according to artistic director Karen Azenberg.
“It’s one of those plays that is sort of written about a time and place and is very interesting on its surface, and then you really listen to it and it’s about so much more,” Azenberg said. “I think in the way that ‘The Crucible’ speaks to a lot of things about the McCarthy era in the United States, ‘Inspector Calls’ speaks to a lot of things that were going on in England at a certain time in history, but really speaks to what’s going on in America right now, dealing with the issues of minimum wage and a livable employment level.”
A wealthy British family lies at the story's center. As its members come together to celebrate the daughter's engagement to a respectable gentleman, a mysterious inspector arrives, claiming he is investigating the suicide of a local young woman. Each of the family members claims to know nothing about her, but as the facts unfurl and the investigation continues, it seems everyone has had a hand — however inadvertently — in what appears to have happened.
“It’s fascinating,” Azenberg said. “When I reread it last year, I was just shocked that it wasn’t written this year. Even though it’s set in 1912, it just speaks volumes to lots of different times in lots of different countries. I just was taken with how timely it is without being preachy. It kind of is the play that it is, it’s the story that it is, but there’s just a lot of wonderful underlying storylines and messages.”
“An Inspector Calls” will be the last show to feature costumes designed by PTC's resident costume designer and costume shop manager Carol Wells-Day before she retires at the end of the season.
“The design is beautiful; the costumes are stunning,” Azenberg said. “I think the audience will come in and they will sort of have that moment of ‘Oh!’ when they look at the set and the costumes.”
Content advisory: Brief mild language, social smoking and drinking, and discussion surrounding an offstage suicide. According to PTC's website, “An Inspector Calls” would be rated PG if it were a movie, though it “is suitable for general audiences and children aged 13 and over” and “would likely be above the heads of children under the age of 10.”
If you go ...
What: "An Inspector Calls"
When: Feb. 19-March 5; 7:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. Saturday matinees
Where: Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East, Salt Lake City
How much: $25-$44 in advance, $5 more when purchased on day of show