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The Roundabout

From 25 critic and 53 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Entertaining, Delightful, Funny, Clever

About the show

Cahoots Theatre Company presents a rare revival of this comedy about England in the '30s, when it looked as if the social order might be changing. Part of 59E59's annual Brits Off Broadway festival. More…

The Kettlewells are a dysfunctional family. Richard is an old Etonian whose business ventures are failing. Over a crowded weekend, his daughter Pamela, whom he hardly knows, returns from Russia, a passionate communist; his ex-wife and mistress both turn up; and his butler has a big win at the races. Playwright J.B. Priestley is best known for his classic drama 'An Inspector Calls.' First staged in 1932, 'The Roundabout' is enjoying its very belated U.S. debut.

The New York Times

“This sparkling, impeccably staged play will be catnip to ‘Downton Abbey’ devotees, with equal doses of humor and insight...Some period conventions creak…The director, Hugh Ross, adds a soupçon of farce to the percolating proceedings, keeping his busy cast on point. Throughout, Priestley gently reminds us of the ephemerality of affluence in a teetering economy. His words, with their generous, sympathetic regard for human nature, cast a binding glow over the production.” Full Review


“A truly charming play, one that will appeal to a broad audience…Directed by Hugh Ross, the staging is superb and the show's cast shines bright in their roles…The comings and goings of these colorful characters, the clash of social classes, and the fast-paced, clever dialogue create a totally entertaining and engaging theatrical experience. You'll love the cast of 'The Roundabout.' They are funny, lively and authentic.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“Unearthing old theatre gems is like digging for truffles–and British director Hugh Ross has found one…It sparkles with the wit of Wilde, the frivolity of Coward, and the saltiness of Shaw…‘The Roundabout’ holds the promise of an entertaining comedy of manners–but delivers far more…In the midst of all this frivolity, playwright Priestley offers a sharp, satirical bird's-eye view of an anxious era when England’s social order is changing and facing growing threats from abroad.” Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

“A delightful romp into the past…Under Hugh Ross’ direction, the play moves at a clip and is crisp and refreshing. Mr. Sachs is delightful as ‘Chuffy,’ bringing comedic chops…Ms Laing has that ‘it’ factor that makes her completely watchable…Plays written in other eras are turning out to be morality plays that show us how little we have learned. With 'The Roundabout,' at least it is served up in a palatable, witty way.” Full Review

The Huffington Post

"A grand production, directed exactly as it should be and with precisely the right cast...Dated, yes, but possessing the kind of charm those plays continue to hold...'The Roundabout' also has a very special humor about it...The true value is that it’s Priestley getting laughs at the expense of the upstart English who’ve jumped on the Communist bandwagon...A threat he might have taken more seriously. But if he had, 'The Roundabout' wouldn’t be half the fun it is." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"A charming and well-performed work with an undercurrent of social criticism...A well-oiled ensemble, which, under Hugh Ross's direction, does a fine job of keeping the lighter-than-air domestic comedy floating stylishly and smoothly for its close to two-and-half-hour running time...While 'The Roundabout' may not exactly be a newly rediscovered treasure unearthed from the good old days, it provides enough delights to make it well worth the visit." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Under Hugh Ross’s well-paced direction, the cast is uniformly engaging...It is the unpredictability of these parallel story lines that makes 'The Roundabout' consummately entertaining...Priestley chooses not to explore the issues he introduces with any depth...Still, Mr. Priestley’s 1931 'very light comedy' is a delightful romp around the roundabout well worth the trip." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

“A classy staging...The sprightly cast is built around the life of Lord Kettlewell, played with charm and occasional bewilderment by the excellent Brian Protheroe…The excellent cast members include Richenda Carey, Charlie Field and Ed Pinker. Polly Sullivan has designed an effective Kettlewell country home in the small stage space, and Hugh Ross directs what is a very stylish production, the kind we have come to expect from visiting Brits.” Full Review

Let's Talk Off-Broadway

"Emily Laing–both as character and actress–is half the show and worth every minute...The direction is tone-perfect and the cast without exception excellent...The play ends a little too quickly: we’re left with a sense that some explanations are needed about why things resolve as they do. But that’s only after a thoroughly delightful time spent at Lord Kettlewell’s country home." Full Review


“While the play pretends to be making a statement about British class structure and the economic and social changes that were occurring in the 1930's, it is both very lightweight and very much a period piece of an earlier age. The repartee is good but, alas, the play is not particularly witty nor does it offer memorable one liners. From the usually brilliant J.B. Priestley we have come to expect a good deal more originality.” Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“'The Roundabout'…offers enough nutrition for a band of first-rate thespians to feast on to make its resurrection edible. However, it's still second-rate Priestley, far too long and chatty, at two hours and 15 minutes, for its wafer-thin, drawing room/romantic comedy plot, leavened by political satire…There's some enjoyment to be derived from Priestley's then timely and sometimes still pertinent observations on social and economic matters, but the…laughs are mostly of the polite, muffled kind.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“'The Roundabout' is a very mild evening of drawing-room skirmishes, the sort of thing that Coward, Maugham, and Frederick Lonsdale handled far more deftly…A few bright remarks aside, this is a strictly by-the-numbers affair: Couples are arranged and rearranged…Hugh Ross' production could use some additional layers of high-comedy style, but it gets the job done…‘The Roundabout’ will probably keep audiences amused, but it is a lesser example of its genre." Full Review

Off Off Online

"Ambitious and well-acted...The actors deliver cut-glass diction and high style; it’s the play itself that frequently betrays their efforts...Unfortunately, Pamela is the center of the action, yet her character is often irritating, and Laing doesn’t make her as palatable as she needs to be...'The Roundabout' is no lost diamond, but it’s more than a lump of anthracite. For fans of Priestley or drawing-room comedy, there are charms. Too often, though, one wishes it were that missing diamond." Full Review


"Incessant flippant chatter is crisply deployed along with archaic social commentary...Going along with the presumption that pretentiously affected acting comes with the territory and with this import, credit is due to the cast and to Ross who has affably and effectively abetted...Notwithstanding the play's relative insignificance, it actually makes a slight and snippy jab at a world of disengaged gentry...A play that is, if nothing less or more, appropriately named." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

“A comedic, but inconsequential, look at upper-class decadence…'The Roundabout' is played for laughs, rather than ideas… All told, 'The Roundabout' is well-acted and well-staged. I wish that were enough, but it's not. Despite the still-timely reference to sexual misconduct, the play is dated; despite some terrific one-liners, its assets are insufficient to recommend what is ultimately a stale production.” Full Review

Epoch Times

"It can safely be said that breezy debates about the virtues of communism versus capitalism, in a high-twit-factor, three-act, moldy British drawing-room comedy is hardly the place to do the topic justice...'The Roundabout' has quite a talented cast. The problem is that it’s just not terribly funny or impactful. It’s quite a bland offering...if you’re a huge fan of, say, 'The Importance of Being Ernest' and pine for spatterdashes and top hats, you’ll enjoy 'The Roundabout' immensely." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"As it stands, we’re subjected to a tedious two hours in the hands of milquetoast Kettlewell, almost-ran Chuffy, bratty, tantrum-throwing, mischief-making Pamela, and boorish cliché Comrade Staggles...Aside from flickers, those onstage range from poor to irritating to ho-hum. Hugh Ross’s direction is so heavy-handed, movement has no motivation except audience view, irony goes by practically unnoticed." Full Review

London Theatre1

for a previous production "'The Roundabout' boasts a stellar cast who work very well together. Bessie Carter gives an excellent performance as Pamela, playing both her mischievous and vulnerable sides well...The rest of the cast give great performances complementing the main characters well...Hugh Ross’s direction is in keeping with the tone of the piece. Whilst the play doesn’t really have much of a plot it is worth seeing and is a funny and perceptive look at English life in the 1930s." Full Review

The Stage (UK)

for a previous production "While not exactly the unearthing of a dramatic masterpiece, 'The Roundabout' is also more than a mere curiosity item...The stage is set for a keen comedy about social class that dances with witty banter...Hugh Ross' elegant production has not come to the boil quite yet, with one or two actors still on the back foot in their timing and some of their lines; but there are at least two exemplary lead performances that get the pace, period and pitch just right." Full Review

The Telegraph (UK)

for a previous production "Hugh Ross’s sparky revival wisely never pretends this trifling piece is anything more than it is...Much of the subsequent fun is at the expense of Staggles, delightfully played by Steven Blakeley...But the performance of the evening comes from Bessie Carter...She lends the glamorous Pamela a delightfully Puckish sense of mischief...Priestley, though, seems to have lost interest in his own play as it proceeds." Full Review

A Younger Theatre

for a previous production "Despite its quite clever setup, Priestley’s play never becomes more than silly fun, and so does not arrive to a meaningful conclusion either...The play itself is quite wordy, and so the actors have very little to do other than talking...The script is very entertaining...It certainly is not a risk-taking play, and Ross’ direction does not seem to discover anything new in it. But if you are after some traditional fun, you will certainly have a good time." Full Review


for a previous production “J.B. Priestley's ‘The Roundabout’ is an earlier, slighter work than those that established his reputation…The plot isn't quite sufficient to support over two hours' action…On the upside, Bessie Carter is splendid…Hugh Sachs has a lot of fun as Chuffy…As for the other characters - well, caricatures - I found them too broad to believe in really…Perhaps these plot problems are why the play has been forgotten for so long, but maybe now is the right time to revive it." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "It has its moments, but you feel the domestic crises of a bankrupt aristo, which provide the main theme, fit oddly with Priestley’s glancing references to the state of the nation...Priestley tries to have it both ways: he satirises the upper class, while glibly sending up the young communists...You can see why the play was forgotten. Priestley never reconciled its comic and serious elements, but I was glad to have seen it, if only for the glimpse of what Auden dubbed 'a low, dishonest decade.'" Full Review

The Reviews Hub

for a previous production "The main issue with this play is that it is simply pleasant, twee, and harmless. In other words, vanilla – dated and ultimately not particularly memorable...Ross makes traditional, expected choices for a play that bubbles with the undercurrent of revolution...In 'The Roundabout,' actors stumble over lines and unintentionally jump into each other’s dialogue, so while the production rolls along inoffensively, it doesn’t build any pace, impetus or drive." Full Review

The Times (UK)

for a previous production “About as substantial as a cocktail olive. A rattlebag of ridiculous contrivance and clownish characters, it lurches in tone from strained sub-Wildean aphorism to effortful Shavian dialectic...Although Hugh Ross’s boisterous production has a twinkling appeal, the whole experience manages to feel at once half-baked and overcooked…‘The Roundabout’ offers only the very slightest of pleasures, and when it stops pointlessly spinning, it’s rather a relief to get off.” Full Review

Delightful, Funny, Great acting, Great writing, Resonant

See it if U enjoy British humor & love English spoken well & classy social manners & styles from a bygone elegant era. U like J.B. Priestley's plays.

Don't see it if U don't like farce. U don't understand English upper.class customs. U have trouble with British accents.

Also This is a small gem among Priestley's lauded works & the NY presentati... Read more Read less

Delightful, Clever, Enchanting, Great acting, Funny

See it if You enjoy period comedy,wit and style.

Don't see it if You only enjoy fast-moving contemporary comedies.

Also Emily Laing in the lead is an enchanting young gamine in the tradition... Read more Read less

Delightful, Entertaining, Dated, Intelligent, Great acting

See it if You enjoy a dated "well made play" that is very well done.

Don't see it if The above doesn't apply to you

Delightful, Witty, Perceptive, Great acting

See it if You enjoy traditional play from the 1930's that are a bit farcical.

Don't see it if If favor serious contemporary plays.

Also There is some perceptive relevance to present day human interactions a... Read more Read less

Delightful, Intelligent, Great acting

See it if you want to see an older British play revived with a talented cast.

Don't see it if you think it's all so precious.

Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy British theater. Loved the premise of families coming together after long separations. Lots of interesting characters.

Don't see it if You don't care for British theater.


See it if If you enjoy witty, amusing drawing room comedy

Don't see it if If you loathe period pieces.

Also Very strong first act, light, amusing and entertaining. But the second... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Great acting, Delightful

See it if You want to see an English drawing room comedy that touches on issues of politics and class.

Don't see it if You don't like classic well-made dramas with a generally predictable plot.

Clever, Delightful, Funny, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you like British parlor comedies from the pre depression era that are acted perfectly.Lovely costumes and set. Written by JB Priestly

Don't see it if hate tv shows like Downton Abby. Can't understand British accents. Want to see shows that are gritty. Prefer grunts to complete sentences.

Clever, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if you enjoy witty dialogue with British accent. Very developed characters, especially the daughter. Shaw would have done even more with plot.

Don't see it if don't like farce or British accents.

Delightful, Entertaining, Witty, Intelligent, Fluffy

See it if You enjoy romantic comedies and comedy of manners from the 1930s and 1940s.

Don't see it if That seems twee to you.

Also As the penultimate line declares, “Mozart- what life ought to be like”... Read more Read less

Delightful, Great acting, Great writing

See it if you like terrific acting, great writing, and an interesting set. This drawing room comedy explores issues of class in a delightful way.

Don't see it if you are looking for something serious and pedantic. The acting is really top notch. Show is a lot of fun without being silly.

Absorbing, Clever, Great staging, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You are interested in a rarely-seen, albeit light, JB Priestley play from the 1930s.

Don't see it if Light period British comedies from the 1930s don't sound like your cup of tea.

Also Terrific UK cast of very seasoned actors you have probably seen many t... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if like your comedies British. It's an old school show, with serious discussions of class disparity, delivered with humor and fun.

Don't see it if don't like political comedies

Some oldies deserve to be revived, others not; this oldie but goodie does

See it if fun; '30s play combines sting of GB Shaw/satirizes casual communists + breeziness of Noel Coward/upper class idiocy well played by Brit cast

Don't see it if a lot of overacting by stock characters to evoke laughs, predictable plotting, too restrained to be memorable farce

Charming, Clever, Great acting, Amusing, Entertaining

See it if you'd like an amusing view of English satire of class and politics

Don't see it if vintage plays hold no interest for you

Entertaining, Delightful, Funny, Slow act 2

See it if English drawing room comedy about British classes facing economic downturn in early 1930's; funny characters

Don't see it if Act 2 slows as one of the main characters becomes (as described by another character) 'tiresome'. 2 fun characters in Act 1 do not appear.

Also Disappointing because I've seen other theater companies (such as Mint)... Read more Read less

Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining, Funny, Refreshing

See it if Want to be entertained with British humor and have some good laughs. Good clean family fun.

Don't see it if Don't like British humor and aren't interested in family dramas.

Funny, Unfocused, Slow, Well acted, Clever

See it if you enjoy British comedies. There are laughs, but the silly plot gets tedious in Act II. JBP must have finished the script quickly.

Don't see it if you dislike uneven acting. The women are better than the men. Pamela stands out, altho her character is annoying. Chuffey has the best part.

30's revival, Witty, Mannered, Relevant to its time

See it if Almost charming, well observed story of upper class English facing crumbling of their class structure. Sometimes lovely, often stagy, light-

Don't see it if ... weight period piece notable for the lack of raillery at the situation, a keen eye for hypocrisy, and wonderful costumes.

Nice enough but not outstanfding

See it if you love british comedy

Don't see it if you've grown weary of their attitudes

Clever, Enchanting, Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent

See it if Enjoy old school English comedies with a subtle hint of social parody.

Don't see it if Not interested in shows about British Society with message

Great singing, Slow, Quirky, Disappointing

See it if like dated english plays about class with with some good acting from all english cast

Don't see it if love 59e59 brits but found this one uninteresting dated slow it was a preview so maybe the timing was off not a must see or must stay away

Entertaining, Slow, Disappointing, Funny, Dated

See it if you enjoy plays that are definitely "period pieces", especially one by J.B. Priestley which has neve been done in this country before.

Don't see it if you have no patience with old-fashioned plays that seem to have no relevance to our world today.

Great acting, Slow, Quirky, Ok, Disappointing

See it if you are a big fan of the playwright, J.B. Priestly, and want to see great acting.

Don't see it if you're looking for something edgy and contemporary.

Also I wanted to like this more than I did. The cast was terrific. I think ... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (18)