Deep Dish Theater Company resident director Tony Lea’s whimsical modernistic take on Anglo-Irish dramatist Oliver Goldsmith’s 1773 Comedy of Manners, She Stoops to Conquer, is fresh, frisky, and very funny. The key ingredient in Deep Dish’s latest theatrical offering is Lea’s buoyant comic staging combines with scenic designer Kenneth Rowland’s splendid miniature parlor set — with inserts for the tavern and garden scenes — and costume designer David Serxner’s handsome array of vintage 18th century outfits. The latter two add an air of authenticity to the proceedings and heighten the hilarity of this classic comedy of subterfuge, mistaken identity, runaway brides, and an attempted jewel heist, albeit by the jewelry’s rightful owner.
Brian Fisher and Brett Bolton are delightful as the skittish Charles Marlow and the self-confident George Hastings, two urbane, well-educated young men from London society who have a lot to learn about country folk. Marlow is completely comfortable while seducing lower-class women, but painfully shy and completely tongue-tied when pursuing women in his own aristocratic class, such as the lovely and high-spirited Kate Hardcastle (Amelia Sciandra), whom his father Sir Charles Marlow (Thom Gradisher) dispatches him to the country to meet as a prospective bride.
Meanwhile, young Marlow’s traveling companion, George Hastings, has fallen and fallen hard for Constance Neville (pertly played by Rebekah Vaisey); and eagerly accompanies Marlow to the hinterlands, ignorant of the fact that Constance is currently residing with Constance’s aunt and uncle (Marcia Edmundson and George Rady as Kate’s parents, Mrs. and Mr. Hardcastle).
Things start to go awry when Marlow and Hastings meet practical jokester Tony Lumpkin (Jeffrey Vizcaino) over a pint at the Three Pigeons tavern, and Tony convinces the gullible Londoners that the rambling old Hardcastle house — where Tony lives with his mother and stepfather and stepsister Kate — is a country inn. Marlow and Hastings receive a warm welcome when they arrive – after all they are expected – but that cools as Marlow especially starts treating his prospective future father-in-law like an innkeeper, insolently ordering him around. Meanwhile, Kate pretends to be an innkeeper’s daughter in order to get Marlow to show his true character.
The comic confusion that ensues makes for an entertaining couple of hours, with Marcia Edmundson and George Rady earning accolades as the mercenary Mrs. Hardcastle and her sanguine husband. Mrs. Hardcastle wants to marry the wastrel son from her first marriage, Tony Lumpkin, to Constance Neville, who — unbeknownst to George Hastings — will inherit a fortune in jewels if Tony refuses to marry her; and Mr Hardcastle is an affable country squire whose fury is aroused by the insulting way that young Marlow treats him and the Hardcastle family’s servants.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 1st BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Larissa Mount: http://raleigh.broadwayworld.com/article/BWW-Reviews-Deep-Dishs-SHE-STOOPS-TO-CONQUER-20121101; Nov. 1st Durham, NC Five Points Star review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: http://thefivepointsstar.com/2012/11/01/she-stoops-to-conquer-still-funny-after-all-these-years-at-deep-dish/; and Oct. 31st Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Kate Dobbs Ariail (who awarded the show 3 stars out of 5): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/timeless-human-foibles-in-deep-dish-theaters-she-stoops-to-conquer/Content?oid=3181901. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Triangle Theater Review’s Oct. 26th preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/10/oliver-goldsmiths-she-stoops-to-conquer-is-a-perennially-popular-1773-comedy-of-manners/.)
Deep Dish Theater Company presents SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1, 8 p.m. Nov. 2 and 3, 2 p.m. Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 and 8, 8 p.m. Nov. 9 and 10, 2 p.m. Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 and 15, and 8 p.m. Nov. 16 and 17 in Deep Dish’s performance space between The Print Shop and the Public Library at the Dillard’s end of University Mall, at the intersection of Estes Dr. and U.S. 15-501, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514.
TICKETS: $21 ($19 seniors), except $2 discount Wednesdays and Thursdays and $14 for students to all performances.
BOX OFFICE: 919-968-1515 or http://www.etix.com/.
NOTE 1: Dramaturg Karen Blansfield will give a preshow, Meet-the-Play talk at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2nd.
NOTE 2: There will be post-performance discussions on Sunday, Nov. 4th (with Dr. Charlotte Sussman and the cast) and on Thursday, Nov. 8th (“Meet the Designers”).
NOTE 3: The Deep Dish Book Selection, Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica (http://waiterrant.net/), will be discussed 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 12th at Flyleaf Books (http://www.flyleafbooks.com/), 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514. For more information, click http://www.deepdishtheater.org/news?n=105.
The Play (background): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She_Stoops_to_Conquer (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/383 (Project Gutenberg).
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Goldsmith (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.