Before a very appreciative audience totaling 325 patrons, Act 1 Performing Arts provided a joyful, fun evening of comedy by staging the classic Oliver Goldsmith play, SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER in the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts in Center Valley, PA, outside of Allentown. From the start, the show grabbed your interest and held it through the 2.5 hours of magical “comedy of errors” and mistaken identity. I know the show very well, having studied it in an English course in college with a professor known for his expertise in 16th-19th century British works. I have seen many, many productions of SHE STOOPS and am proud to say this was very, very good and a pleasure to watch.
Director Anne Lewis obviously knows the show well, too; “What I enjoy about the play,” says Lewis, “is the masterful way that Dr. Oliver Goldsmith reveals the human foibles without judgment and corrects the shortcomings in a playful manner by the end of the play.” Lewis, herself, did a masterful job in blocking, staging and casting the production.
Young Marlow, the misguided suitor to Miss Kate Hardcastle, along with his best friend, Hastings, is sent to the house of Miss Hardcastle under false pretenses that it is an inn. Tired and thought to be lost from their original destination, they enter the Hardcastle home to command what they want as weary travelers. This confuses and astounds Kate’s father, as he has been assured that Young Marlow is a suited lover for his daughter’s hand by his long time friend, the elder Marlow. Playing jester to all this nonsense is Kate’s step brother, Tony, who has fun at all their expense. The play continues to be full of misguided “oops”, giving the audience much fun because they are all “in” on the practical joke!
Henry Gibson plays Young Marlow, giving us his nervous stammer and his boastful gestures with a fine professionalism. Opposite him, Kate, portrayed gracefully, yet with a touch of mischievous glee by Jillian Ports, gives the audience a well balanced love pair. Ryan Yandersits is a hilarious Tony Lumpkin and fits the part to a Tee! A pair of younger actors who were dressed up older to fill the parts of the parents were Adriana Pia Stigliano and Eddie Seage (Mrs. and Mr. Hardcastle). Despite their young age for the roles, they pull off masterful jobs. Stigliano had huge “outtakes” to the audience with large eyes and a hair raising voice to announce her comic presence, while Seage showed a slow burning frustration which eventually boiled over. He could have easily overdone/overacted this, but his understated performance was a pleasure to watch.
The rest of the large cast were equally talented and each had their moments “on stage” to give the audience cause for laughter. Chris Stevens, Andrew Goebel, Brendan Moser, Peter Danelski, Megan Heinrich, Marc Bitler, Andrew Barr, John Brady, Jennifer Starr Foley and J David MacMurtie made the whole show come together. In my opinion, the mark of a truly great show is when the secondary and support characters give you equally professional performances. As a result, the show doesn’t miss a beat. Congratulations to all the above, you were all noticed and appreciated!
Set Designer Will Neuert gave us a simple, yet purposeful stage in a classic tradition. Costume Designer Amy Best was the “best” with bright colored, detailed period pieces which looked fabulous on the boards. Elizabeth Elliott and Erick J. Huertas helped Producer John Bell provide great lighting and sound respectively. Michael Liiro ran a tight ship as Stage Manager, with quick scene changes. SHE STOOPS cannot be done “halfway”; it’s 18th century or bust. Needless to say, I felt that the entire cast and crew of this production nailed it and I am very happy to have witnessed something special.
SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
by Oliver Goldsmith
Directed by Anne Lewis
February 24 – March 6, 2011
Act 1 DeSales University
Labuda Center for the Performing Arts
2755 Station Ave
Center Valley, PA