ROBIN’S SHOW RECOMMENDATION: The Heiress
THE HEIRESS is the story of Catherine Sloper, the shy and sheltered daughter of a wealthy New York physician. Caught between the demands of an emotionally distant father and the attentions of a passionate, but poor, handsome suitor, Catherine must navigate the terrain of love and regret, desire and duty, a chance for happiness and the burden of fortune…as only an heiress can.
Jessica Chastain (Academy Award® nominee for The Help) is making her Broadway debut alongside David Strathairn (Academy Award® nominee for Good Night, and Good Luck), Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey) and Judith Ivey (two-time Tony Award® winner), in the Tony Award®-winning play, THE HEIRESS. Written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz and directed by Tony Award®-nominated playwright and director Moisés Kaufman, it’s running for an 18-week limited engagement.
The world of THE HEIRESS is brought to life by a talented design team that includes two-time Tony Award® winner Derek McLane (sets), two-time Academy Award® winner Albert Wolsky (costumes), Tony Award® nominee David Lander (lighting), Tony Award® nominee Leon Rothenberg (sound design) and original music by Peter Golub.
The night I saw the show, it featured understudy Mairin Lee, in the role of Catherine. I was initially disappointed that Chastain wasn’t present, but Lee got a standing ovation, which she rightfully deserved, that nearly drove her to tears. By the end, sweet, but dull Catherine has transformed into a woman of both considerable means and impressive backbone. We ache for her, and her life that is largely one of solitude as she comes to accept her lack of beauty and charm….but we applaud her inner strength and the self possession she has acquired.
I’ve long been a fan of actor David Strathairn’s movie work, and in this role, his performance was nuanced and understated….as he struggles to love his only child, whom he holds responsible for the death of his beautiful, personable wife who passed away during childbirth.
The charming and dashing Stevens offered enough sex appeal and seeming sincerity that we are challenged to believe his marital motives are any less than honorable, as he plots his elopement with Catherine, despite her less than stunning countenance and unworldliness. Is he a gold-digger or a man with the capacity to see beneath a pallid exterior and appreciate the beauty within?
Ivey, as Aunt Lavinia who lives with Catherine and her father, adds a breathe of girly giddiness, and is a delightful, strong stage presence.
The show has had various incarnations of the years…….as a film and earlier stage production, neither of which I saw, so I can’t draw any comparisons. I recalled, as a student year ago, reading and enjoying Washington Square by Henry James, on which the show is based, and seeing this production brought back vivid memories of the short novel. I felt captivated and transported to the Victorian era, and it was a welcome escape.
Visit http://www.theheiressonbroadway.com. It is playing through 2/10. To purchase tickets, phone (212) 239-6200. If you reside outside of the NY metro area, call (800) 432-7250. Or, visit the Walter Kerr Theatre Box Office, 219 West 48th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue in NYC.