She Stoops To Conquer

by Jonathan Leaf

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday October 24, 2016

Cynthia Darlow (Mrs. Hardcastle) and Richard Thieriot (Tony Lumpkin)
Cynthia Darlow (Mrs. Hardcastle) and Richard Thieriot (Tony Lumpkin)  

On Wednesday night, I attended the Roundabout's production of "The Cherry Orchard." It isn't as bad as you might have heard. But it's not good either. Nonetheless, as has become customary at Broadway shows, when it ended, a few members of the audience stood up to applaud.

I find that you can't avoid this when there are stars on the stage. Some years ago, I attended a startlingly terrible production of the same play at BAM with Ethan Hawke, Simon Russell Beale, and Rebecca Hall. At its conclusion, nearly the entire audience stood up to cheer.

I thought of this on Saturday night when The Actors Company Theatre's production of Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops To Conquer" concluded. There are no big name performers in this production, and the tickets cost less than half what those for a Broadway show do. Perhaps for that reason, hardly anyone rose, clapping their hands boisterously, at the end. I doubt though that there was anyone in the audience who didn't realize that they had seen something welcome and fine.

Presented in an intimate space, the company performed with heart, spirit, skill, and fire. And if the actors aren't famous, they range from good to superb. Here was one of the most charming plays in our language given a production it deserves: rousing, lively, engaging and amusing.

Credit for that must start with the company's Artistic Director Scott Alan Evans, who had the good sense to keep the production simple and to cast his actors largely by their talent and not upon how narrowly they matched the "type" implied in Goldsmith's eighteenth-century chestnut.

That meant that Tony Roach more than ably took on the part of the illiterate ne'er do well Tony Lumpkin, even though he is probably a generation older than the actual character. Other standouts in the impressive cast included the skillful Jeremy Beck as the young swain Marlow, the staunchly capable John Rothman as the country gentlemen Hardcastle and the eloquent Mairin Lee as the play's titular heroine.

They are aided by Brett J. Banakis's simple but elegant set design, which speeds the play's action by permitting rapid scene changes: from the lobby of the mansion in which the story commences to a local tavern and onto the house's horse pond.

I feel obliged to mention that the production got a further assist from an unexpected cameo as a non-professional in the house named Christina Freyss made an appealing one-night-only debut as a servant girl. That addition from an audience member added to the great appeal of the evening.

All though were in service of the play, which involves a series of comic errors as a young man mistakes a woman he is to be introduced to as his prospective bride for a barmaid and a grand country house for an inn. These are but the first of a series of comic mishaps. While "She Stoops To Conquer" is a story of one miscalculation after another, audiences will hardly be blundering in purchasing tickets for it.

"She Stoops To Conquer" runs through Nov. 5 at the Clurman Theater on Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street. For information and tickets, call 212-239-6210 or visit

Jonathan Leaf is a playwright and journalist living in New York.