Review by Danny Gaisin
Goldsmith’s 18th Century comedy She Stoops To Conquer utilized the restrictions of societal strata and a psychological quirk to fashion an almost farcical tale of three romances and the machinations needed for a happily ever after final curtain. Director Martha Henry is one of Stratford’s interpretative genius’s with an innate instinct about how much directorial creativity audiences will accept. The lady has no need for gratuitous ‘envelope pushing’ or superfluity. Her results are consistently effective. ‘She Stoops’ is no exception; titillating and amusing from the moment the curtain rises. Savage; Farb & Hodder- “Stooping to Conquer”; Photo by David Hou
A successful country squire has a young daughter he feels would make a perfect wife for the son of his oldest friend. His invitation to the young man is accepted, but under strict sense of filial responsibility due to the scion –Charles Marlow’s discomfort conversing with ladies of his own social status. Shades of Big Bang Theory’s RAJ, (Kunal Nayyal). He and his friend George Hastings are misdirected to the estate, thinking they are going to a local inn. The prank is manifested by the son of his intended host’s stepson who has his own social agenda. Three males; three ladies; and thus three relationships.
A clever tri-sided set offers a view of the estate’s parlour; the niece’s boudoir; and an alehouse frequented by the prankish ‘Tony Lumkin’, the aforementioned stepson. Effective lighting and immaculate costuming factually project the very essence of both the period and situation where the plot might have plausibility. Henry’s casting choices are impeccable as each character seems to epitomize the personas being interpreted. He young potential suitor is Brad Hodder and while his good looks belie anyone having any trouble with even the most mundane of pick-up lines, his portrayal becomes at least partly plausible. His intended is played by an amazingly instinctive comedienne Maev Beaty. Most of the cast-members resort to the vehicle of asides pointed to the audience; Beaty’s facial expressions highlight even the most impish of her planned machinations.
The sidekick role is taken by Tyrone Savage and he is tailor-made for the part. He never attempts to outshine Hodder’s character and his support rings credible. He too has an emotional involvement… he’s infatuated with the hausfrau’s niece ‘Constance’. Sara Farb is outstanding and is the focus every moment she’s onstage. A highly mobile face is coupled with an innate sense of comedic timing and emphasis that perfectly portrays her role. She has a hilarious relationship based on mutual dislike of her cousin, the trouble-making Tony. He’s the real pivot and Karack Osborn is a scene-stealing thespian gem. Occasionally he comes close to that ‘flounce’ line but is enough of a talent that he never crosses the line. Good acting and impeccable directing.
Goldsmith’s ironic and pithy dialogue, plus his quotable dialogue such as “5o is the new 40”, and “I’m pretty fond of an OLD wife” are sure to be used by yours truly after a half-century with my muse.Some plays never wear out their appeal and this is one that will always attract an audience. Given the creativity of the director and talent of the cast, SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER deserves a full house until its run closes this fall. The Hardcastles; guests & family are at the AVON Theatre until Oct. 10th.