The Voysey Inheritance

A 1905 play presciently engaged with the ethics of transgression and repayment

In Harley Granville-Barker's 1905 play, Edward Voysey inherits his father's bankrupt financial law firm and attempts to right decades of professional malpractice perpetrated against clients by his affable yet frivolous forebears. A hundred years and a good many real-world corporate scandals later (WorldCom, Enron, Tyco ...) it's difficult to imagine a work more presciently engaged with the ethics of transgression and repayment than this one. Yet for a modern audience, the sheer blustering long-windedness of the Edwardian playwright's text threatens to undermine its punch. By casting off many of the original piece's digressions while keeping its essence intact, David Mamet's adaptation performs the dramatic equivalent of liposuction, resulting in as powerful an exploration of commercial misconduct as Mamet's own hardheaded business-themed dramas Glengarry Glen Ross and American Buffalo. Ralph Funicello's opulent drawing-room set gives director Carey Perloff and her excellent cast (featuring a suitably gaunt and hangdog Anthony Fusco as Edward) a dignified veneer through which to expose the canker below.

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