SHE STOOPS TO CONQUERBy Oliver Goldsmith
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Director – Richard Stubblefield+
Stage Manager – Jennifer Stewart
Costume Design – Lauren Morgan
Set Design – Jason Morgan
Sound Design – Richard Stubblefield/Jennifer Stewart
Lighting Design – Bryan Douglas
Props Design – Jennifer Stewart
Hardcastle – Bert Pigg+
Mrs. Hardcastle – Cynthia Matthews
Young Marlow – Chris Rothbauer
Miss Hardcastle – Jessica Taylor
Sir Charles Marlow – Neil Rogers+
Hastings – Robert Twaddell+
Miss Neville – Shannon Garcia+
Tony Lumpkin – Jake Defoore+
Diggory – Terry Yates+
Maid – Karen Matheny
Roger/Fellow - Jacob Harris+
Servants/Fellows - Julie Rhodes+, Blake Hametner+, David Helms+, Gwen Moores+
+Performing in THE THREE SISTERS as well
Reviewed Performance: 10/14/2017
Reviewed by Richard P. Buswold, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The first play up this past weekend was She Stoops to Conquer, a British comedy of manners sure to make you laugh or at least giggle. She Stoops to conquer was first performed in London in 1773. I first encountered it in a theatre classes in high school but this is the first time I have ever seen it performed. Initially the play was titled Mistakes of a Night, and indeed, the events within the play take place in one long night.
Wealthy countryman Mr. Hardcastle, played by Bert Pigg in a decisively splendid characterization of a British Lord, arranges for his daughter Kate, played by the ever lovely and talented Jessica Taylor, to meet Charles Marlow, (Chris Rothbauer) the son of a rich Londoner, hoping the pair will marry. Unfortunately, Marlow prefers lower-class women, finding them less intimidating than women of high society. Kate, realizing this, decides she will have to pretend to be 'common' to get Marlow to woo her. Thus Kate 'stoops to conquer', by posing as a maid, hoping to put Marlow at his ease so he falls for her.
There are fifteen people in the cast and all deliver solid performances with a tough and wordy script. Remember this play was written just before the American Revolutionary War so the English is significantly more embellished than what we use today. Not quite as involved as Shakespeare, but close to it. There are lots of asides to the audience so we know what the actors are thinking which plays into most of the humor. The humor comes from the fact that Tony Lumpkin, Kate's step-brother and Constance's cousin, properly played by Jake Defoore as a bit of an oaf with little use for the trappings of high society, plays a practical joke on young Marlow and his companion by telling them that the Hardcastle estate is actually an inn owned by Hardcastle. When they arrive, the Hardcastles, who have been expecting them, go out of their way to make them welcome. However, Marlow and Hastings, again a solid performance from Robert Twaddell, believing themselves in an inn, behave extremely disdainfully towards their hosts. Hardcastle bears their unwitting insults with forbearance, because of his friendship with Marlow's father.
There is a sub-plot with a secret romance between Constance (Shannon Garcia in a very sweet role) and Hastings, her jewels, eloping and tricking Mrs. Hardcastle so that all may end well. Does it? Well go see the show to find out.
This is very much an ensemble show and a joy to watch. The dialect of every character was dead solid perfect and the reactions of everybody on stage were as visually appealing as they were funny. It truly is an enjoyable piece of theatre.
When I entered the Sander's Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center my first impression was, "Wow, the set is … basic." I was put off because I was sure there could have been much more to it than there was. It was only after I realized that this same set is going to be used for The Three Sisters, the second show in the festival, that I realized the brilliant simplicity of its design. Going back to the UIL reference, it is basically a very dressed-up unit set, a platform, a few columns and two or three flats is all they work with to create the Hardcastle Mansion, the pub, the horse stalls and woods. There is a fireplace and it is referenced but there is no fire burning in the hearth.
As with most period pieces, the costuming is the thing. The bustle dresses and the coats need to be on-point. I must say for the most part they were. Some of the gathers on the bustles of the ladies were not proportional and unevenly placed. If this was intentional, it didn't come across that way. The servant costumes in the house should have been better matched. They were uniforms so all the lady servant's dresses should look exactly the same as too should the men's shirts and trousers. Also, the gentlemen had long coats as they should have, but for some reason Hastings appeared in cut-away tails which really didn't exist for another 20 years or so and only then was a military uniform for the cavalry to make it easier to get on and off a horse. Neither were really that distracting from the production as a whole, but just something I noticed.
Being that this is a two-hundred-year-old play, there is really no call for a lot of technical work. For 90% of the play the lights come up, they go down. There is no music needed except for the end of the acts so there is not a lot to say about that. Except I must mention the special lighting and the beautiful background noises of the evening when the action moved outside the Hardcastle mansion. The track of crickets and nightingales was the perfect transition as the action was still "in" the mansion because the actors were still "in' the mansion set but yet they were supposed to be outside.
A truly amazing aspect of this whole theatre experience is that 11 of these actors and their director are appearing in the second show, The Three Sisters by Anton Chekov, this weekend and then flip-flopping the performances through Oct 29th. Being that She Stoops to Conquer is the comedy, The Three Sisters would then be more of the tragedy. Very Shakespeare-in-the-Park-ish for you old timers here in Fort Worth. Truly a great idea for a theatre to make a statement in the DFW scene. I would see both shows as close together as you can for the best theatre experience.
1300 Gendy ST
Fort Worth TX 76107
Saturday, October 21 @ 8:PM*
Sunday, October 22 @ 2:PM
Friday, October 27 @ 8:PM
To purchase tickets by phone please call Theatre Mania at 1-866-811-4111
For more information visit their website www.stolenshakespeareguild.org or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
*On OCT 21, THE THREE SISTERS will be performed by most of the same cast for SSG's 2:PM matinee performance