She Stoops to Conquer
By Oliver Goldsmith
Directed by Katrina Ploof
Starring Brian Brightman, Tommy Keesling, Stephan Lima, Melanie Whipple
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL
The path of love is paved with brambles, and in rural pre-Napoleonic England the mores and social coda made even the most innocent flirtation fraught with sexual innuendo. Shy Charles Marlow (Brightman) is on a mission to get wed, and he’s assisted by wingman George Hastings (Kevin Zapf). Their target – the belles of Richmond Hill: Constance Neville (Elizabeth Tackas) and Kate “I’m hot to trot” Hardcastle (Whipple). On defense we find jovial Mr. Hardcastle (Keesling) and his second wife Dorothy (Karel Wright). Mr. H favors of any sort of normative heterosexual consummation, but the Mrs. has smoked herself into paring Constance with her conniving son Tony Lumpkin (Lima). Tony would rather hang out at the Three Pigeons Tavern and spend mommy’s money and Constance has a crush on Hastings, so the three conspire to pair her off with Hastings. No one is any worse off for the dealing, except Mr. Hardcastle and Mr. Marlow have differing opinions of the house at Richmond Hill – one thinks it an inn, the other his castle. Thus, a comedy of manners. It’s a classic of missed hints and broad assumptions, and still terribly funny to modern ears.
The manners of the rich aren’t like ours, at least not in the details, and money addles the brain, or so it is thought by those who lack it and that drives the roar of laughter surrounding Brightman as everyone’s straight man. Keesling has a heart of gold and a perfect slow burn, Zepf gets most of the soft side kick grade laughs, and it’s Mr. Lima who plays the devil incarnate – even as the Hardcastle and the nubiles figure out that Mr. Marlow has deceived himself, Lima convinces them to keep the secret and send his mother and nearly everyone else on a wild chase that kept the groundlings laughing and stamping. Even the supporting actors all had their moment – Leander Suleiman gave a rhyming exposition to shove us off the dock, and Michael Osowski , Ron McDuffie and Brent Wakelin may not names tied to them in the program, but they pulled their weight in chuckles and we are all the more entertained for their hard work. It great comedy with bustles and jack boots and one of those little bells to summon a servant when they need to bring a plot point out on a tray. Even the fireplace looks convincing, in a comedic way.
For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com