This Stunning Time and the Conways Passage About Our Relationship to Time Is A Mind-Blowing Must-Read
October 6th, 2017
by Josh Ferri
Roundabout Theatre Company mounts the first-ever Broadway revival of J.B. Priestly’s time-hopping family drama Time and the Conways.
The play, which contrasts the promise of the youth and the disenchantment of middle age, hasn’t been seen on Broadway since its premiere in 1938, but this incredible exchange between Gabriel Ebert’s Alan and Charlotte Parry’s Kay about humans’ relationship with time remains just as striking nearly 80 years later.
KAY. There's a great devil in the universe, and we call it Time.
ALAN. Did you ever read Blake?
ALAN. Do you remember this?
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine; Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe; And when this we rightly know, Safely through the world we go...
KAY. Safely through the world we go? No, it isn't true, Alan—or it isn't true for me.If things were merely mixed—good and bad—that would be all right, but they get worse. Time's beating us.
ALAN. No, Time's only a kind of dream, Kay. If it wasn't, it would have to destroy everything—the whole universe—and then remake it again every tenth of a second. But Time doesn't destroy anything. It merely moves us on—in this life—from one peephole to the next.
KAY. But the happy young Conways, who used to play charades here, they've gone, for ever.
ALAN. No, they're real and existing, just as we two, here now, are real and existing. We're seeing another bit of the view—a bad bit, if you like—but the whole landscape's still there.
KAY. But, Alan, we can't be anything but what we are now.
ALAN. It's hard to explain...suddenly like this...there’s a book I’ll lend you—read it in the train. But the point is, now, at this moment, or any moment, we're only a cross-section of our real selves. What we really are is the whole stretch of ourselves, all our time, and when we come to the end of this life, all those selves, all our time, will be us—the real you, the real me. And then perhaps we'll find ourselves in another time, which is only another kind of dream.
KAY. I'll try to understand. . .so long as you really believe—and think it's possible for me believe—that Time's not ruining everything...for ever...
ALAN. No, it's all right, Kay. You know, I believe half our trouble now is because we think Time's ticking our lives away. That's why we snatch and grab and hurt each other.
KAY. As if we were all in a panic on a sinking ship.
ALAN. Yes, like that.
KAY. But you don't do those things—bless you!
ALAN. I think it's easier not to—if you take a long view.
KAY. As if we're—immortal beings?
ALAN (smiling). Yes, and in for a tremendous adventure.
You have to see Eber & Parry perform this scene live in Time and the Conways at Broadway’s American Airlines Theatre through November 26.