note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Sheila Barth
The timeworn plot of an awkward, self-conscious, plain-looking daughter of a powerful, rich, self-made parent, and her romance with a poverty-stricken handsome suitor, thus sparking her parent’s chagrin and suspicion, isn’t new. It has been written about, performed, sung about, filmed, and presented in every form imaginable.
Playwright Victoria Stewart of Beverly Farms, whose favorite pastime is working on new plays, is no stranger to theater. She has acted, written screenplays and plays, studied, collaborated with writers and adapted other works. Her latest work, “Rich Girl,” which premiered over a year ago and is currently appearing at Lyric Stage Company of Boston, is based on Henry James’ 1880 novel, “Washington Square,” Ruth and Augustus Goetz’s 1947 play and the 1949 film,“The Heiress”. Stewart sets this ages-old theme in contemporary Manhattan, changes a few characters and tweaks its details. Although Stewart’s, the cast, crew, and director Courtney O’Connor’s efforts are noble, this play is predictable and bland at times.
Set designer Brynna Bloomfield has nicely created an upscale Manhattan apartment, and Mallory Frer’s costumes clearly define each character’s personality. Portraying divorced, embittered, former waitress-turned hard-nosed celebrity financial guru, Eve, accomplished actress Amelia Broome is appropriately garbed in fashionable black and white pant ensembles and tasteful jewelry. When Eve addresses us as attendees at her business seminars, she’s personable, intelligent, and money-driven. Getting married? Get a pre-nuptial agreement. Money lasts. Love doesn’t, she lectures. Smiling, she pounds that message home to us and to her daughter, Claudine.
Eve insists she’s trying to lead Claudine in the right direction, grooming her to one day take over her business, and be successful. But Claudine’s a klutz. She’s plain-looking and timid,despite her ridiculously dyed magenta-burgundy hair and mod, unmatched street chic. Sasha Castroverde nicely traverses Claudine’s transformation from meek,mealy-mouthed, and painfully awkward, through her gaining confidence and conviction when she falls in love with Henry, her former high school classmate-impoverished handsome suitor. Claudine’s metamorphosis is complete, when she evolves into a tailored, tough businesswoman - just like her mother - almost.
Adding zest to the play, Castroverde and Broome are potent firecrackers during their mother-daughter tongue-lashing scenes.
Despite Eve’s hurdles she creates, the couple has an ally - Eve’s trusted, live-in assistant, Maggie. Celeste Oliva as Maggie is intended to provide comic relief as she races around, keeping peace between Eve and Claudine and encouraging Henry.
Joe Short as Henry is, indeed, charming, enigmatic and glib, with his on-off “sincerity” while wooing Claudine. Eve wants to protect Claudine from her abysmal romantic fate. Her marriage ended disastrously. She worked to finance her husband through law school, then he ditched her.
Like Eve, we suspect Henry couldn’t possibly love Claudine. We figure he’s counting on Claudine’s money to fund his theater project and him. When Henry initially met Claudine, he requested that money from her mother’s foundation. When Claudine rejected his request, Henry quickly asked her to invest her own money in him. After learning her wealth is tied up in a trust, Henry is more determined to marry Claudine.
He says she’s everything he has searched for and now found, but we wonder, especially after his fervor subsides when Claudine forsakes her inheritance and company holdings to marry him.
“Rich Girl” ambles along to the predictable inevitability. But last minute, Stewart throws in a game-changer.
BOX INFO: Two-act play, written by Victoria Stewart, making its New England premiere at Lyric Stage Company of Boston, now through April 26 at 140 Clarendon St., Boston. Performances:Wednesdays, Thursdays, at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3,8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Wednesday matinees, April 2 and 23, at 2 p.m . Check for related events. Tickets:$25-$61, seniors, $10 off; student rush, $10; also group rates. Call 617-585-5678 or visit lyricstage.com.