Regent University’s most recent production of Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer made me laugh so hard I cried.
The 18th century comedy employs multiple subplots, outrageous costumes, and numerous hysterical conventions. Under Marianne Savell’s direction, the play felt fresh and relevant. Modern hits from artists such as Rhianna, Paramore, and Coldplay made appearances, which the audience and I gladly clapped and sang along to. If you did not get a chance to see the play, I’m afraid to say that you missed out. Yet despite being in attendance twice, I had issues “seeing” the play as well.
Throughout the play, certain characters were practically invisible because of odd blocking and picturization choices; this caused me to wonder if the play should have been named She Struggles to See. Despite the visual setbacks, the overall high quality of the acting carried me through the three hour production.
George Hastings and Charles Marlow—respectively portrayed by Luke Fox and John Scritchfield—are on their way to meet Marlow’s potential fiancée when they find themselves lost. They stop to ask for directions from the sneaky Tony Lumpkin (William Viriato). Tony happens to be the stepbrother of Miss Kate Hardcastle (Stephanie Semiday), the young woman that the two men have set out to meet. Tony falsely informs the two of an inn just straight down the road. Little do Hastings and Marlow know that the so-called “inn” is in fact the Hardcastle residence. Chaos ensues from the young Tony Lumpkin’s clever trick.
Upon entering, Marlow and Hastings are entirely unaware that the “inn” they are staying at also houses Hastings’ love, Constance Neville (Abigail Ebensberger). Marlow and Hastings are impudent towards Mr. Hardcastle, throwing their cloaks at him and taking him for the innkeeper, when he is in fact the man of the house. Constance and George Hastings struggle to be together as she is waiting for her aunt to bestow her jewels upon her, so Hastings conspires with Tony Lumpkin to acquire them.
Meanwhile, Kate is intrigued by her suitor; he presents himself in a very shy manner, as a man who seems extremely reserved and physically incapable of making eye contact with a woman of class. However, Marlow is quite the lady’s man with the women of local bars and such. Kate therefore ventures out by “stooping to conquer.” She poses as a barmaid in effort to talk to Marlow, who suddenly turns into a bold and debonair man who would never dream of allowing shyness to overtake him. Who really is Charles Marlow? Will Kate reveal her true self? Can Constance and George Hasting’s ever be together?
Confusion erupts, identities are mistaken, love is forbidden, and a huge song and dance number to Pharrell’s “Happy” ends the show—all in this wonderfully clever comedy. This would naturally be the part where I would encourage you to buy tickets. But as the show has closed, this is the part where I encourage you to read the play for yourself.
The next upcoming play at Regent is Beth Henley’s award-winning Crimes of the Heart, directed by our very own undergraduates, Suzy Johnson and Kristen Schuman. Crimes of the Heart runs February 6th and 7th at 7:30 and February 8th at 2:30 in COM 128. Admission for Crimes of the Heart is free, so clear your calendar for this weekend, shut off Netflix, and grab some friends to see a dramatic, provocative performance delivered by your talented peers.