Romp in the woods at American Players: A lusty, stylish go at ‘She Stoops To Conquer’

Posted July 25, 2019

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By Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicago on the Aisle, July 25, 2019

Oliver Goldsmith’s broad comedy “She Stoops to Conquer” has been around for nearly 250 years, one of the few 18th-century British plays to retain a place on the stage in this country despite the great displacement of time and place. Charming, LOL funny and warm-hearted, “She Stoops to Conquer” is a smashing success at American Players Theatre, an ensemble coup but also a particular triumph for Laura Rook as an aristocratic girl who sheds her fine mantle to win the heart of a hopelessly shy peer.

The diffident fellow in question, Marlow, an excellent figure of a young man, isn’t generally mortified in the company of women. It’s just that he loses his tongue when he’s around smart, competent young ladies of his own class. Faced with a bright lass of high station – his exact match – Marlow turns catatonic. But hook him up with a servant girl, and suddenly he gets his spine and wits back. He shines. He becomes downright rakish.

Marlow’s condition is no doubt an excellent subject for a psychoanalytic treatise. But it also makes for riotous misadventure when he shows up with his friend Hastings at the posh home of Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle. I should qualify that: Marlow and Hastings mistake the Hardcastle residence for an inn, and assume that Mr. Hardcastle, generously welcoming, is the innkeeper, to be ordered about – even to service for boot removal.

The Hardcastles have a daughter, a lovely girl called Kate, who, looking every bit the elegant lady that she is, comes upon Marlow in the parlor. He is stupefied. He can’t even look her in the face. Seriously. They have an awkward conversation during which he never actually sees her. A short time later, Kate reappears dressed down for hanging about the house. Marlow, who still doesn’t know who she is, now glimpses her for the first time, and with great interest. His observation is confirmed to Kate by a real housemaid. Aha! Kate grabs a feather duster, and the game is on.

Read the full review here!