Playwright Oliver Goldsmith overcame ugliness, lack of breeding, and alcoholic behavior (or sidestepped it) to become a successful writer for the 18th Century stage. Eschewing the then popular “sentimental, i.e. high-minded comedy,” Goldsmith added laughter and impropriety to the mix.
The TACT Company offers a lighthearted rendition of this classic replete with some genial audience contact between acts, occasional dissolution of the fourth wall, a couple of rousing tavern songs, and cleverly inclusive use of the entire theater, not just the stage. It’s fun.
John Rothman and Cynthia Darlow
Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle (the appealing John Rothman and Cynthia Darlow, whom one could drop into Masterpiece Theater tomorrow) live on an estate outside of London. While he’s content to oversee land, she longs for the city or at least some diversion. The couple are parents to lazy, spendthrift, dissipated son, Tony (Richard Thierot, who never gels as a character) whom his mother worships and his stepfather disdains, and well bred daughter Kate (the too contemporary Mairin Lee, whose attempt at a barmaid’s accent is patently false ), just coming of age.
In an effort to find Kate a suitable husband, Mr. Hardcastle has invited his friend’s pedigreed, scholar son, Charles Marlow (Jeremy Beck) to the house so that the young people can be introduced. Charles has something of a Jekyll and Hyde personality. He’s a polished Lothario with lower class women but so tongue-tied in the face of a lady, the young man can’t bear to raise his eyes. Traveling with Charles is his BFF George Hastings (the completely credible, seemingly upper class Tony Roach), who has come to the area in hopes of convincing Mrs. Hardcastle’s niece, Constance Neville (an irritatingly affected Justine Salata), to elope. (She lives with the family.)
Jeremy Beck, Tony Roach, Richard Thierot
When Tony tricks the suitors into thinking Hardcastle’s home is an inn, presumptions create a house of cards, ripe for knockdown. Selectively kept secrets and additional trickery compound events as both pairs attempt to, well, couple.
The find here is Jeremy Beck (Charles Marlow). This actor delivers a whole person, from believable difference in his approach to feminine mystique – when he literally shakes with fear, one feels empathetic rather than critical of technique, while seduction scenes are elegant- to eventually sincere ardor; from the character’s arrogant, patrician behavior to shame and defeat. Beck is the real deal.
Cynthia Darlow and Richard Thierlot
Scott Alan Evans’s adaptation is smart, witty, and economic. His direction, especially use of the aisles, arrives lively and well mannered. Accents, however, are all over the place.
While Brett Banakis’s minimal set design works admirably to create atmosphere, Tracy Christensen’s costumes are wrongheaded. That some characters wear a semblance of complete period ensembles and others mix jeans and a plaid shirt with lace sewn at the cuffs serves well enough. There is, however, no viable reason why the young women should not be wearing long skirts like Mrs. Hardcastle. Elastic and fabric can be cheap. High, modern heels are also jarring as is the use of a kitchen apron.
Also featuring James Prendergast as Sir Charles Marlow, Charles’ father, and the Landlord.
Photos by Marielle Solan
Opening: Tony Roach, Jeremy Beck, Justine Salata, Mairin Lee
TACT The Actors Company Theatre presents
She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith
Adapted and Directed by Scott Alan Evans
Through November 6, 2016
The Clurman Theatre
410 West 42nd Street