SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER a barrel of fun at RVP

(Left) Alex Ross & Maureen O'Donoghue as the Hardcastles. (Left below) The Cast. (Right) Jocelyn Roddie as Kate Hardcastle who "stoops to conquer." Photos by Robin Jackson.

HE STOOPS TO CONQUER by Oliver Goldsmith. Adapted and directed by Judy Holmes. Ross Valley Players, Barn Theatre, Marin Art & Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross, CA. 415-456-9555 x1 or

January 20 – February 19, 2012

Ross Valley Players (RVP) are greatly admired in the Bay Area and have no qualms about undertaking adventurous journeys with their selection of plays. This time around, for the second half of their the 82nd (count them) season they have mounted Oliver Goldsmith’s 18th century comedy She Stoops to Conquer adapted and directed by Judy Holmes on another marvelous set by the always inventive Ken Rowland. They have also pulled out all the stops with period costumes that are a tribute to the versatility of Michael A. Berg. The plethora of styles in the play are very problematic, and can be treacherous to any production, yet the talented cast avoids many of the pitfalls and give delightful performances.

It is difficult to categorize the author’s style, since the elements suggest a comedy of manners, social satire, class distinction, mistaken identities, love run amok and farce. These elements require a director to balance this multiplicity to give unity to evening. Director Holmes has all the credentials to helm Goldsmith’s opus from page to stage and has done a masterful job of adapting a five act play into a tight two hour and 20 minute well paced evening. She begins by dropping the opening prolog, dispensing with multiple characters, selecting only pertinent and impertinent scenes. For inexplicable reasons she has cast an overacting neophyte in a pivotal role that emphasizes farcical at the expense of a polished performance. That being said, RVP’s production is clever, joyous, stylish, charming and funny enough to satisfy the most jaded theatre goers.

The majority of the action takes place in the countryside Hardcastle Manor where Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle (Alex Ross and Maureen O’Donoghue) are expecting the arrival of Charles Marlow (Sean Mirkovich) as the potential suitor for the hand of his daughter Kate Hardcastle (Jocelyn Roddie). It is the second marriage for both the Hardcastles. Her ne'er-do-well son Tony Lumpkin (don’t you love the name?) is notorious for his wastrel life and time spent at the rowdy Three Doves Tavern. He has a penchant for tom-foolery. All this comes to light in the charming first scene that Ross and O’Donoghue nail with pitch perfect acting, completely as ease dressed in their voluminous costumes, setting the tone for what is to come.

What are to come are Charles Marlow and his chum George Hastings (Adam Roy), who get lost. They meet the notorious Tony Lumpkin (the miscast, misdirected Josh Garcia-Cotter) who convinces the two foppish Londoners that Hardcastle Manor is a country Inn and the Hardcastles are merely innkeepers and they treat them as such. Throughout all this the perplexed Hardcastles maintain their cool with oft made journey to the stage apron to reveal their true feelings. This breaking of the fourth wall is used by all the major characters to great effect allowing the audience to share in the confusion.

There is a secondary plot involving cousin Constance who lives with the Hardcastles and is promised to the reluctant Tony while she is secretly in love with the soon to arrive “commoner” Hastings who is secretly the heir to a fortune. Within this unfolding scenario is a box of jewelry that is intricately (well sort on intricately) worked into the plot and really belongs to Constance.

It also seems that Marlow has a psychological aversion to courting well mannered ladies but feels completely at ease and sexually attracted to common women. He is unable to look at elegant Kate, his potential wife, but is fascinated by Kate whom he thinks is a barmaid at the “Inn.” This is the origin of the play’s title. She will go along with this charade as “she stoops to conquer” Marlow.

All these entanglements get untangled with an obligatory restoration comedy scene involving those who need to know hiding behind a screen hearing the real truth. Roy and Mirkovich are two handsome gentlemen who handle the tricky dialog with professional skill matching the fine acting of Jocelyn Roddie and Kushi Beauchamp, the objects of their affection.Kedar K. Adour, MD

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