Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Heiress"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | CURTAIN | USHER | INTERMISSION |



"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


Reviews of Current Productions


entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


"The Heiress"

by Ruth & Augustus Goetz
Based on Henry James' "Washington Square"
Directed by Polly Hogan

Set Design by Janie Fliegel
Lighting Design by John Malinowski
Costume Design by Andrew Polezak
Music Design by Todd Gordon
Hairstyles & Wigs by Troy Sigfried
Stage Manager Michele Keith

Maria...........................................Justine Skeeles
Dr. Austin Sloper..................Michael Bradshaw
Lavinia Penniman............................Eve Johnson
Catherine Sloper...............................Paula Plum
Elizabeth Almond.........................Sheila Ferrini
Arthur Townsend..........................Daniel Bolton
Marion Almond.................Michelle M. Proude
Morris Townsend..................Diego Arceniegas
Mrs. Montgomery.................Bobbie Steinbeck


The Lyric Stage has concentrated a lot of their attention on classic plays, or plays that require specific styles, and plays for which experienced actors can play meaty roles close to their real age --- actors whose work can be familiar (or surprising) to long-time Lyric subscribers. In just the last two years I've seen Michael Bradshaw three or four times, and Eve Johnson, Sheila Ferrini and Paula Plum at least twice, though I had to check the program bio's for "The Heiress" to prove all that to myself.

The Lyric also takes pains to finish their productions physically. For "The Heiress" John Malinowski has light flooding in through elegantly tall windows into Janie Fliegel's stair-case dominated 1850 parlor with marble-parquetted floors, through which Andrew Polezak's hoop-skirts and Troy Sigfried's wigs glide with an understated opulence. As I said: style.

Ruth and Augustus Goetz fashioned this solidly well-made play out of Henry James' novel "Washington Square" in which, with impeccably elegant manners, the three principals are either thoughtlessly or connivingly or vindictively cruel to one another with never a drop of blood shed, though their lives are devastated by it all.

William Bradshaw and Director Polly Hogan decided that old Doctor Austin Sloper would be thoughtlessly cruel to his only daughter --- holding her guilty not only for her mother's death in childbirth but for never replacing her mother's grace, wit, or beauty. His gloomy judgements of her may well be a self-fulfilled prophecy. Certainly this always-right doctor is frigidly rigid enough to practice in London's Harley Street rather than New York's Washington Square, and his well-meaning protection squashes his daughter's every hope of happiness.

It is true, of course, that as Diego Arceniegas plays Morris Townsend he is a charmingly shameless skeemer eager as Petruchio to marry for money though glibly professing true love-at-first-sight. Again, the director has given his bold wooing and comfortable lounging into the good life no hints his love is anything but insincere.

Paula Plum, who could never be un-pretty, makes Catherine Sloper insufferably gauche, forever flustered by her frosty father's stony stares and giddily eager to believe her suitor's lies. It is when this worm slowly turns, slicing both the men in her life to the bone in reprisal, that the play really catches fire.

"The Heiress" is such a well-made play that all the clues are clear in the script, so that ambiguities have to arise in how these roles are played, or everything becomes predictable. Since the director allows Catherine no little victories, her father no hint of warmth, and her lover no possibility of sincerity, nothing is really in doubt except when everyone's axes will fall.

And that's too bad, because everyone moves so smoothly in those excellent Andrew Polezak costumes through Janie Fliegel's flawless set in John Malinowski's radiant lights with Troy Sigfried's eloquent hair-do's keeping true to the style of 1850's New York.

But sometimes style just isn't quite enough.

Love,
===Anon.

"The Heiress" (till 23 November)
LYRIC STAGE
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON
1(617)437-7172
Read a Minority Report by Beverly Creasey


THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide
| MARQUEE | CURTAIN | USHER | INTERMISSION |