David Mavricos, as the confused suitor, Charles Marlow, exemplifies the quality of Pallas Theatre Collective’s production of Oliver Goldsmith’s popular farcical romp She Stoops to Conquer. Filled with confused identities and the vagaries of love in 1800, AnneMarie T. Saunders smartly directs this delightful journey, which is void of diversions, and has a plot which is very, very funny and easy to follow.
Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle (Frank Mancino and Melissa B. Robinson), of declining social standing and wealth, attempt to match their daughter, Kate (Laura Rocklyn), with Charles Marlow, son of Mr. Hardcastle’s friend General Charles Marlow (Zach Brewster-Geisz). Mancino portrays the full extent of Mr. Hardcastle’s pompous and verbose nature. Robinson is the perfect high-strung, over-anxious foil to her husband’s pomposity.
A side-plot involved Marlow’s friend, George Hastings’ (Andrew Keller) mutually desired marriage to the Hardcastle’s niece Constance Neville (Chelsea Mayo) despite her engagement to her cousin Tony Lumpkin (Joel Ottenheimer). Mavricos gives a stand-out performance playing the stuttering solemn version of Marlow when faced with maidens of his own class versus a loquacious and amorous suitor of maidens of lower class. Laura Rocklyn is superb in a dual role as Kate, the upper-class maiden and a lower class barmaid with whom Marlow was quite taken. Ottenheimer is terrific as Tony Lumpkin, son of Ms. Hardcastle from a previous marriage, who drives the central farce of portraying his parent’s country estate as an inn at which the traveling Marlow and Hastings could stay the night. Though technically uneducated, Lumpkin is clever and enjoys the consequences of his tom-foolery.
Much of the play involves only two characters on stage, allowing the audience to see the many dimensions of their relationships. The mixed pairings of the couples Marlow and Kate and Hastings and Constance are particularly engrossing.
The simple and effective props, designed by Chelsea Mayo, consist of one table and three chairs backed by patriotic bunting, the tables and chairs were turned from one and a quarter to two revolutions to effectively show the passage of time and circumstance. This simple maneuver, aided by a dimming of the lighting by A.W. Saunders, allows for easy changes of scenes with no black-outs and scurrying about.
Costuming by Laura Rocklyn is alone worth the price of admission. Mr. Hardcastle is outfitted in a lordly and old-fashioned manner including his out-of-date insistence in keeping his wig. His wife’s lumpy and over embellished dress captures her misconstrued effort to keep up with the times. General Marlow reflects his past glory with purposefully over-matched suiting and wig. Marlow and Hastings are perfectly dashing in their handsome period knickers and layers of shirt, vest and swallowtail jackets. The young Kate and Constance are outfitted to show Kate’s relatively higher status in society. The excellence of the costume design and execution for the ensemble of household staff (Dane Peterson, Jeremy Hunter, Lily Kerrigan, Emily Sucher, and Kathleen Mason) shows Rocklyn’s consistent attention to detail.
The quickly-paced action and comfortable seating made the two hours pass in a snap.
She Stoops to Conquer is another example of the growing presence of great theater in Anacostia. The Anacostia Arts Center, which contains the black box theater, home to the Pallas Theatre Collective, includes a cafe, artists’ shops, and other creative endeavors.
Kudos to Pallas Theatre Collective for this extremely entertaining night in the theatre. Don’t miss She Stoops to Conquer!
Running time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one 15 minute intermission.
Pallas Theatre Collective’s ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ Opens Tomorrow at Anacostia Arts Center.