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
Ireland has long been rightly renowned as a country of storytellers that has birthed such legendary authors as Johnathon Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce. But with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner and this being the year of Hillary Clinton’s historic candidacy it seems appropriate to consider some of Ireland’s leading female authors. Many of the books by these authors are out of print, but a handful have been reissued for succeeding generations to enjoy. Click on a book’s cover to learn more and order on Amazon.
Anne Burke (1780-1805) Anne has once worked as a governess and after finding herself widowed with a son to support she took up writing. She specialized in Gothic novels and was one of the earliest women writers in the genre.
Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921) Also known as Lady Gilbert, Rose was a novelist, poet, and playwright. She originally wanted to be a painter but received encouragement in her literary aspirations from Charles Dickens! Dickens greatly admired her work and encouraged her to continue. Her first novel Dumana was published in 1864 under the pen name Ruth Murray.
Edith Somerville (1858-1949) and Violet Martin (1862-1915) These two ladies were cousins who wrote under the pseudonym of Somerville and Ross. Together they published a total of fourteen novels and collections of stories until Violet’s death in 1915. Whereupon Edith continued to publish works under “Somerville and Ross,” claiming that she and Violet continued to collaborate via spiritualist séances.
M.E. Francis (1859-1930) M.E. Francis was the pen name of Mary Elizabeth Brundell an astonishingly prolific novelist who published dozens of works, she was described as being the best known female novelist of her time.
Jesse Louisa Rickard (1876-1963) Though she didn’t publish her first novel Young Mr. Gibbs (1912) until she was 36, Jesse was an extremely prolific writer who published over forty novels ranging from light comedy to crime novels. She was a founding member of the Detective Writers Club along with Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, and Agatha Christie.
Kate O’Brien (1897-1974) Kate was an novelist and playwright whose books dealt with themes of female agency and sexuality. At the time this was quite controversial, in fact it was so controversial that her 1936 novel Mary Lavelle was banned in Ireland and Spain while her 1941 novel The Land of Spices was banned in Ireland on publication.
Deirdre Purcell (born 1945) Dierdre is a former stage actress as well as having done tv and press journalism. She has published twelve critically acclaimed novels all of which have been best sellers in Ireland.
Anne Enright (born 1962) While Anne had won the 1991 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and the 2001 Encore award she was still relatively obscure until her 2007 novel The Gathering won the 2007 Man Booker Prize-a decision that was made unanimously by the jury. Since then she has written two more novel The Forgotten Waltz (2011) which was short-listed for the Orange Prize and won the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and The Green Road (2015) which won the award for Irish Novel of the Year.
Tana French (born 1973) Tana is a theatrical actress and novelist whose debut novel Into the Woods (2007) won the Edgar and Anthony awards for best first novel. She is referred to as the First Lady of Irish Crime and she has another novel The Trespasser scheduled for release this August.
Eimear McBride (born 1976) Eimear wrote her debut novel A Girl is a Half Formed Thing in just six months but it took nine years to get it published. The book then went on to win numerous awards including the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction and Desmond Elliott Prize for debut novelists.