The cast of 15 well-rehearsed performers brought the stage to life at Waterman Theatre in their production of "She Stoops to Conquer" by Oliver Goldsmith. The actors not only managed to portray the idea of love in restrictive society, but they also managed to overcome the play’s difficult language with poise and confidence. The play, though of the traditional English form, is laced together by a series of comic moments, and the actors didn’t miss a beat.
The play takes place in the Hardcastle mansion during the 18th century in England and centers around the idea of a practical joke. Mr. Marlow (Nate Roy) is convinced by the mischievous Tony Lumpkins (Charles S. Smith) that his potential fiancé’s house is really an inn. What starts as a joke, however, escalates into chaos, as Marlow mistreats Mr. Hardcastle (Jeremy Waterman) who is the head of the household and the father of Kate Hardcastle, his betrothed (Jessica Quidlen). Miss Hardcastle plays along with the joke and acts as a barmaid to see how Marlow truly acts.
In the opening scene, Mrs. Hardcastle (Sarah Sterling) immediately captured the audience’s attention with her booming voice and overly-dramatic demeanor, the perfect depiction of what her character was meant to be. Sterling’s character seemed to fit the profile of the traditional spoiled housewife; proper, demanding, and stubborn, while her husband seemed more relaxed and unfazed by the dramatics of his wife. Waterman seemed confident with his character, and despite the usual difficulties that come with speaking in an English accent, he seemed to connect with what he was saying.
When Quidlen entered the stage, her character brought a strong sense of independence and a hint of defiance in her. She performed with passion and never once stepped out of character as she went through the motions of testing her potential husband. Likewise, Roy played along perfectly with the ploy, resulting in a roller coaster of moods from his character.
For the parallel storyline, Miss Hardcastle’s cousin, Constance Neville (Ashlee Grant) is madly in love with Marlow’s friend, Mr. Hastings (Nicholas Pike). When Grant and Pike took the stage together, there was apparent passion, and even a brief kissing scene. Their characters, much like in many stories, had to fight for their love, and both actors portrayed this flawlessly. Furthermore, Grant’s character had to deceive her aunt into thinking she was in love with Lumpkins, her cousin, so that she could keep her fortune. The scenes between Grant and Smith brought a dominant sense of humor to the play, and Smith, alone, shaped his character into someone the audience loved to laugh with.
One of the most comic moments of the play was during the second act, when Lumpkins convinced his mother that they were 40 miles away from home, though they were truly in their own backyard. Sterling portrayed her character in a frenzied panic, afraid to die, while the audience laughed at the irony. Smith emanated a quiet satisfaction at his mischievous ways and fed his mother’s panic.
Great performances in the show were put on by the servants (Jacob Luria, Dylan Duffy, Stephen Green, Erik Schuler and Kimberly Saunders) whose characters added another dimension of comedy to the play.
At first glance, the wardrobe for the show seemed to fit the stereotype of traditional 18th century attire. However, upon closer observation, Miss Hardcastle’s and Miss Neville’s dresses were simply exquisite and perfect for fashionable woman of the upper-class during that era. Their outfits made their characters stand out wonderfully. On the other hand, Mrs. Hardcastle’s attire varied with an array of over-the-top outfits, which she associates with staying in style, but are truly are a sign of her eccentric personality.
Furthermore, the sets for the play were perfect for the time period and enhanced the scenes to a great extent. There were three different locations for the play (the Hardcastle residence, a bar, and the garden) and each set accurately represented these locations. The stage crew also did a wonderful job of moving the sets during blackouts without any extended delays or waiting, a great feat for the size of the sets.
Overall, the show was a showcase of talent and skill, as well as a reflection of dedication from all involved in the production. The acting was full of emotion and comedy, and truly demonstrated the mastery of a completely different style of speaking. The wardrobes were beautiful and the sets were convincing, and all these aspects came together in the production to portray the common themes of wit and love.
"She Stoops to Conquer" opens Friday April 23 at 8 p.m. in Waterman Theatre. Other performances are this Saturday and next Saturday at 8 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday May 3. Tickets are $7 for Oswego State students, $10 for seniors and students and $12 for adults.