Who wants to sit around and wait the love of their life to come to them?
Not Kate Hardcastle. This confident and clever young woman of 18th-century Britain doesn't need a fairy godmother to make her wishes come true. She uses her wits to snag her guy in Washington Christian Academy's weekend performance of "She Stoops to Conquer."
First performed in London in 1773, "She Stoops to Conquer" is a charming comedy chronicling the foibles of the British upper class. The young Charles Marlow has one small but oh-so-significant problem -- he can chat up a storm with barmaids but loses his cool whenever he comes face-to-face with a proper lady.
On top of all of this, he mistakes the house of the wealthy Hardcastles for an inn and commits one hilarious faux pas after another. Enter Kate, his potential fiancee, who disguises herself as a barmaid to make Marlow lose his inhibitions so she can win him over.
The cast and crew made the show accessible and entertaining to modern-day audiences. The authentic costumes and set served as a reminder of the historical period, yet the excellent line delivery and comedic timing made the play seem like fresh and funny fare.
Erica Gropp gave Kate Hardcastle an air of refined grace and intelligence, adding a pinch of sauciness in barmaid disguise. Nathan Hoeksema was most dynamic as young Marlow when he broke from his usual suave persona to become a bashful blubbering mess in the presence of ladies.
As Kate's mother, Lizzie Keegan performed with mounting, frenzied intensity throughout the evening. James Hoobler stood out as a spoiled son of Mrs. Hardcastle, Tony Lumpkin.
Some actors had trouble maintaining accents or spoke their lines too quickly, but the sound system was quite good, and every person on stage could be heard. A few scene changes were a bit uneven, but this was offset by use of comic bits to introduce each act.
The Silver Spring academy actors transported audiences back to a time of over-the-top manners. As a heroine appealing to modern sensibilities, Kate Hardcastle conquered her man's heart and those of theatergoers, too.
Bishop Ireton High School, Alexandria
Washington Christian Academy defiantly stooped to conquer in a trimmed-down version of Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer."
Written by in the mid-18th century, the play is about a young man searching for a wife. The problem: He can't seem even to look a girl of stature in the eye, much less begin a relationship. So when he travels, on his father's wishes, to the house of Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle to meet their daughter, Kate, she must disguise herself as a barmaid to make him comfortable enough with her to fall in love. As originally written, this classic is about more than love. It is a comedy of physical attraction and sexual innuendo. As high schools sometimes do with scripts, Washington Christian trimmed scenes, making the play a bit less racy and erotic than the original. Given this and the minimal plot, the actors had a greater than usual challenge to find ways of making the play amusing.
Some of the brightest, most intriguing scenes involve Luke Johnston as rich old Mr. Hardcastle, a foolish but loving father. Johnston made daring and entertaining decisions with the part, providing an energetic stage presence. The cast handled blocking well, but throughout much of the play, character motivations was difficult to follow, making some scenes a bit like a recitation.
The costumes were period pieces, with corsets and wigs and most characters dressed according to their positions in household and society. The set was well thought out, simple yet complete, with pieces necessary to the blocking, decoration appropriate for the house and no more.
Even when the acting was a bit inconsistent, the show was lovely to watch.
Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Washington