Oliver Goldsmith’s comedy with manners "She Stoops to Conquer" is the current offering at the IU Theatre. It marks the directing debut of professional theatre veteran, but new faculty member Fontaine Syer with a stylish and rewarding production.
Renee Racan Rodriquez plays Kate Hardcastle, the charming lady who stoops. Brendan Pentzell played her father Mr. Hardcastle. Eric Van Tielen was delightful as the sometimes commanding and sometimes befuddled eligible young gentleman, Marlow. In a delightfully obtuse interview with Kate, Marlow is deferent and tongue tied to the point of dullness, but Kate sees a glimmer of what she wants. Through a prank by the family bad-boy, Tony Lumpkin, Tom Conner, Marlow believes that the Hardcastle home is an inn and treats Mr. Hardcastle rather high handedly as if he were the inn keeper.
Kate thinks that a bit more of the deference to her father and bit more of the high handed command to her would make a nice mix. In her scheme she drops her accent and plays the part of the inn’s bar maid. Meanwhile, after all this is a complex comedy, there is another love affair being played out by the glittering Justine Salata as Constance and the dashing John Maness as Hastings as they duel with Mrs. Hardcastle, Holly Holbrook, Constance’s guardian.
The comedy of "She Stoops to Conquer" is both sophisticated and broad. The characters frequently share there thoughts directly with the audience. Kate and Marlow’s first interview is a delightful piece of empty intellectual sparring and there’s a good deal of verbal humor, especially when Mrs. Hardcastle is in full cry. As to the broad, well, you’ve got to love a play that ends an act with a miscreant son being pursued by his angry mother wielding a riding crop.
Dathan Powell’s scenic design functions nicely and switches neatly from a public house to a country home and even surprises us with a quick transformation into a garden. Linda Pisano’s costumes were a show unto themselves with lots of detail and character sewn into them.
Oliver Goldsmith’s comedy "She Stoops to Conquer" plays each evening this week through Saturday in the Ruth N. Halls Theatre of the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center.
You can find an interview with director Fontaine Syer on our Arts Interviews page .