Katrina Steier, Managing Editor
Making its London debut at Covent Garden in 1773, Oliver Goldsmith’s comedy “She Stoops to Conquer” was a delicious play with laughs a-plenty that skewered the expectations of a theater-loving nation, and also to those that attended the play directed by Andrew Kahl at the Goodrich Theater on Friday night.
The lady stooping to conquer is Kate Hardcastle (Megan Harrington), whose potential fiance Charles Marlowe (Colin Larnerd) has arrived at her country home, thinking he and his more confident chum, George Hastings (Josh Santiago), are actually stopping at a rather unconventional inn. That particular ruse has been dreamed up by Kate’s half-brother Tony Lumpkin (Mark Durkee), a lovable ne’er-do-well always prepared to play practical jokes on his stepfather, Mr. Hardcastle (Andrew Tejada), and particularly on his mother, Mrs. Hardcastle (Taylor Hogan), a flibbertigibbet relentlessly trying to engage him to Constance Neville (Caroline Curtis), who happens to be in love with the far more dapper Hastings.
The rustic set for the play was an astute projection of a country home in the 1700s, elegant but simple. The tavern, or The Three Pidgeons Tavern, was well constructed and gave the audience a feel for the bawdy atmosphere that is the tavern life.
The story has Shakespearean comic overtones in its mistaken identities and misplaced love. Charles Marlow, comes to the country home, or inn, in his mind, to meet Kate Hardcastle. Their fathers, old friends, hope the youngsters will make a match. But Charles is notoriously shy among romantic interests—though he’s quite smooth with servant-class women. Charles seems to have an abundance of different personalities that eventually prove to be a facade of the decent gentlemen Kate proves him to be at the close of the play.
Of course there are many created identities, such as when Kate pretends to be a barmaid, using a charming Irish accent, much different from her clear and crisp British accent.
Eighteenth century conversation can be formal and rather artificial-sounding to modern ears: at the start of the play some of the cast seemed as if they were not always comfortable with this highly structured dialogue. Occasionally they spoke too fast or did not enunciate clearly enough, thereby missing some of the sparkle of the exchanges. In the second half, with the plot moving forward into further complications, the action sped up and the cast seemed more at home and confident with the conversational style of the 1770s.
Some of the biggest and most consistent laughs came from the servant Diggory, played by Ryan DeRosa, who through excellent characterization and awkward, stiff, body language; invented a truly entertaining addition to the play. The antics of Taylor Hogan were hilarious and executed with great delivery and timing, as were the raucous lines delivered by Mark Durkee, who encaptured the wily and rough manner of young gentleman at this time.
The play was all the things one desires from a comedy, with a few surprise. It can be said that none of the actors stooped to conquer—they soared.