While the Sussex home of the eccentric Captain Shotover -- cleverly rendered by designer Leslie Frankish -- may well be little more than a ship of fools, Newton too often makes its denizens far more foolish than they need to be, erupting into uncontrollable fits or crying for little reason.
Shotover (an effective if slightly understated Michael Ball) lives with his flamboyant daughter Hesione Hushabye (the superb Deborah Hay, occasionally channeling a touch of Joan Collins in Dynasty), her philandering and childish actor-husband Hector (Blair Williams, surprisingly unmemorable) and faithful servant Nurse Guinness (a pitch-perfect Patricia Hamilton, who garners all of the script's intentional laughs).
Also on hand are Hesione's new friend, the spirited Ellie Dunn (the fine Robin Evan Willis), her pompous fiancée, Boss Mangan (the excellent Benedict Campbell), Ellie's milquetoast father, Mazzini Dunn (a very good Patrick McManus), Hesione's long-estranged sister, Ariadne (Laurie Paton) and her ridiculous brother-in-law Randall Utterwood (Patrick Galligan).
Without question, this group is so consumed by their dalliances, financial fortunes, and tall tales that they fail to realize that the England around them is changing rapidly. Even an air raid towards the play's end -- which ultimately costs two lives -- does little to shake most of them from their self-absorption. Hesione even voices her desire for the same thing to happen the next night -- an utterance Shaw rightly expects us to find appaling.
Still, one should feel some compassion for this motley crew, products of their time who will soon go the way of the dinosaur. But under Newton's direction, there is precious little sympathy for these mini-devils, and the three-plus-hours spent in their company can feel like being trapped for days with unpleasant relatives.