Tuesday, February 9, 2010

UD's REP Ensemble "She Stoops To Conquer"

Great theater is in the minute detail. Comedy is far more difficult than drama to engage an audience. It takes greater nuance to sell a laugh line than one of emotion. It takes a craftsman to deliver that special 'take' or facial expression to provoke surprise and elicit laughter.
Refer to Lucille Ball on a weekly basis in the '50's or Aisle Say's personal favorite, Sally Fields in “Mrs Doubtfire” in the restaurant scene with her children and her beau, played by Pierce Brosnan. Robin Williams cross dressing Nannie is becoming undone. He just saved Pierce's character with a Heimlich maneuver and his prosthetic makeup dissembles in front of the family.
Sallie's character is unable to consciously process what is going on in front of her bulging eyes. She goes through an incredible series of emotions in twenty seconds; from disbelief, to anger, to embarrassment and back again. Now, there's a comedienne at the zenith of her craft.
Admittedly, a long intro to UD REP's “She Stoops To Conquer”, a vibrant and lush production of the classic comedy of manners written by Oliver Goldsmith and first performed in London in 1773. However, erudite, side splitting and breath taking laughter endures through the ages.
Charles Marlow, an aristocrat, (Michael Gotch) travels from city to country to meet and court landowner Mr. Hardcastle's (Mark Corkins) daughter Kate (Elizabeth Heflin). The venerable Mrs. Hardcastle (Kathleen Pirkl Tague) is a stereotypical snooty and condescending self absorbed lady of leisure; (attired in the biggest bustle and Marge Simpson-like wig ever strode upon Delaware stage.)
Marlowe is obsessively uncomfortable around upper class women; stuttering of speech and unable to make eye contact. Yet he is a rogue and scalawag amongst low class women. Kate elects to 'stoop to conquer', pretending to be a serving girl in order to wed the man.
Gotch is a reincarnated “Rain Man'. His 'takes', along with those of Mrs. Hardcastle, are classic; reminiscent of the Sallie Fields/Lucy variety. In the second act, when he is told that the serving girl (Kate) is actually upper class, he had the entire packed audience involuntarily jump forward in their seats with a spontaneous reversion to his first act neuroses.
Having seen every one of the REP Productions in the past 2 years, Aisle Say's great expectations every opening night are never burst. This specific show has had resonance over the past 237 years because it's simply down right funny. It is not only enjoyable but fascinating to see this talented group of actors don completely different characters.
Often in reviews, the technical aspects of the show are dismissed. One would be 'remiss' not to applaud not only the design creativity but also the textures and colors employed by costume designer Matthew LeFebvre. From his bio, it appears he has made a career in the past ten years of designing for classic theatre.
Special effects also were employed with slap stick results. The prim Mrs. Hardcastle is thrown down a deep well and, upon reaching the bottom, water splashes on stage.
Til February 20 Pttp.udel.edu 302.831.2206

A large selection of Grand pianos, baby grands, violins, guitars, electronic keyboards, etc will be available at very discounted prices this weekend at The Roselle Center for the Performing Arts.
UD does this yearly to rotate into new equipment. 45% of the purchase price is tax deductible.
For info: 731.4137.

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