Monday, February 15, 2021

472. SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975.

Jane Connell, Tom V.V. Tammi, Arlene Nadel, Louis G. Trapani. (Photos: Paul H. Hoeffler)

SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER [Dramatic Revival] A: Oliver Goldsmith; D: Gene Feist; S: Holmes Easley; C: Mimi Maxmen; L: Robert Murphy; P: Roundabout Repertory Company; T: Roundabout Theatre (OB); 4/25/71-5/30/71 (36)

Jane Connell, Fred Stuthman.

This was a moderately effective revival of Goldsmith’s 1773 town and country comedy—a satire of the era’s sentimental comedy style—about deceptions practiced in a country home. The chief victim of the foolery is Young Marlowe (Robert G. Murch), who is convinced by Kate Hardcastle (Nancy Reardon) that her home is an inn and she a serving wench. The Roundabout’s 1971 production (done in an intimate basement theatre) is not to be confused with the company’s 1984 revival in a larger venue, with a different cast and director.

Jack Kroll enjoyed it enough to say, “With revivals like this, who needs new plays?” Mel Gussow considered the production “surprisingly good,” with only a few “weaknesses,” among which were “an uneven acting company, [and] a barrage of accents.” Gene Feist’s staging was adept and the period flavor appropriate, but “the true character values are squashed, squelched and suppressed,” Gussow added. There was also an unfortunate busyness to the production, including too much “unfunny and irrelevant” business. Holmes Easley’s set, though, was anything but busy, being little more than two straight-backed chairs, with the visual emphasis placed on Mimi Maxmen’s sumptuous period costumes.

Jane Connell, fighting hard to separate herself from the indelible image she created as Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame, was “inspired” casting in the secondary but fruitful role of Mrs. Hardcastle, wrote Gussow. “Somehow, in the course of her years of playing contemporary comedy, she has become a first-rate classical character actress. She strides through this production with grace and confidence, never playing for laughs, but getting most of them. Tricked into getting lost on her own property . . . , she explodes—not into a screech of self-pity, but into a quiet rumble. When she softly moans, ‘I shall remember the horse-pond as long as I live,’ one knows that she will.”

Others in the cast included Fred Stuthman as Mr. Hardcastle, Louis G. Trapani as Tony Lumpkin, Philip Campanella as the comic servant Diggory, Arlene Nadel as Miss Neville, and, among others, Tom V.V. Tammi as Hastings.