Saturday, March 25, 2023
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She Stoops to Conquer - a rare 18th century revival Off B'way

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

With all due respect my funny bone failed mightily to be tickled by this 18th century classic comedy of manners from the plumed quill of Oliver Goldsmith – adapted and directed by Scott Alan Evans - now cavorting at the Clurman Theatre a TACT production through November 5th.

With limited resources and excellent actors The Actors Company Theatre usually presents first- rate productions. This time out they have bitten off more than they can chew. It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. A merry band of actors presenting this play in a carefree manner.

We first hear birds chirping, dogs barking and cows mooing. Then the company sings an original song touting TACT and mugs for sale and introducing SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER playing instruments - and we are off. With lots of exposition that falls flat.

Prop pieces are set to the sides of the acting area. Actors when offstage are visible watching the preposterous goings on by their fellow actors whose accents are uneven. The plot at times is ludicrous.

Mr. Hardcastle (John Rothman) has invited Charles Marlow (Jeremy Beck) the son of his best friend Sir Charles Marlowe (James Prendergast) and Charles’ friend Hastings (Tony Roach) to his home. Charles is to meet his chosen intended Kate Hardcastle (Mairin Lee).

At an inn they meet Tony Lumpkin (Richard Theiriot) the son of Mrs. Hardcastle (Cynthia Darlow) by her first husband who misdirects them to the Hardcastle home telling them it is a wonderful inn. And nearby. When they arrive they act in an awful manner.

Mrs. Hardcastle wants her son Tony to wed her ward and his cousin Constance (Justine Salata) to keep her jewels in the family.

The ultra-shy Charles meets Kate and just about vibrates with fright. Near the end of Act I “SHE” (Kate) decides to “STOOP” to conquer Charles by disguising herself as a barmaid (with an apron!). He then treats her lovingly.

Tony won’t marry Constance – he is “not of age” and dislikes her. She has fallen for Hastings. Got all that?

Act II fares better. Except for the embarrassing moment when an audience member is chosen for a bit part.

What is absent is a consistent style. And any semblance of elegance. Speaking “Asides” to an audience takes a special talent that is hard to master and difficult for today’s audience to accept and follow. Especially with the dysfunctional family and friends of what is also known as THE MISTAKES OF A NIGHT.

Enough said. Except for the “not of age” business of Tony. Mr. Thieriot is a rascal and charming and full of mischievous life. However, it is difficult to accept that he becomes of age – a man - over twenty one - in the course of this evening. That alone is a big mistake hard to swallow. A rare revival indeed.

Photos: Marielle Solan

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