Review: THE Manor Club Presents THE HEIRESS

An Elegant Production Of A Classic Play

By: Apr. 13, 2024
Review: THE Manor Club Presents THE HEIRESS
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An Elegant Production of THE HEIRESS At The Manor Club

The Manor Club theatre is a newly discovered venue for me, even though the 340 seat theatre has been in continuous use since 1933. I was thrilled to attend as the opportunity to see a production of this play is quite rare indeed. The Heiress was adapted from Henry James’s 1880 novel, Washington Square, for the Broadway stage in 1947 by Ruth and Augustus Goetz.
I had seen and enjoyed the 1949 film version, starring Olivia de Havilland in the title role, which was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress as being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

The action unfolds in the Slopers’ drawing room inside a house in, what was in 1850, the most fashionable neighborhood in Manhattan. The Heiress is a compelling tale of love, loneliness, betrayal and revenge.
Catherine Sloper is a terribly shy, lonely woman. Her wealthy father, Dr. Austin Sloper, protests that she lacks beauty, intelligence and charm. He resents that Catherine is not the image of her beautiful deceased mother. "She killed her mother in getting born," he says. As an inconsolable widower he threw himself into his work. He neglected his daughter and damaged her self esteem with constant criticism. Catherine relentlessly tries to please her merciless father, fearing she will never achieve his high standards.
When the handsome, penniless Morris Townsend begins wooing Catherine, she is entranced, but her father is convinced that he is a fortune hunter. That his only talents are for being amusing and for enjoying the privileges of the rich. Catherine's Aunt Lavinia encourages the match, hoping the young man is sincere in his intentions. The question becomes will Morris Townsend rescue Catherine from a stifling, loveless home, or is he a cunning wolf in the sleekest of sheep's clothing?

We waited in the Manor Club theatre with mounting anticipation for the lush green curtains to part. And when they did, a collective gasp emanated from the audience members. Applause followed. What was revealed was a luscious, opulent, beautifully crafted set, built by Loretta & Vito Illustrato, Mauro Contrastano, Phil Messina and Marco Salas. A shimmering representation of the drawing room of the Slopers' house, rich with detail; Antique furnishings, brocades, carpets, collectibles and works of art. Accolades to the Set Decorators and Properties Crew.

The well-designed lighting by L2Web Media provided lovely illumination and atmosphere. Oil lamps, mellow candles and delicate light from the windows enhanced the beauty of the drawing room. The very clever and lovely wallpaper projections were designed by Joseph D'Alesandro.
Sound Design by German Bosquez included haunting music, horse clip-clops, clock chimes and bells that are a part of the wonderfully conceived environment. The cues seem to arise naturally and realistically at exactly the right time.
Costumes of the period coordinated by Donna Bellone and Jean Eifert are wonderful to behold. The men in frock coats and top hats and the women in sumptuous dresses with hoops and lavish accessories. The dresser, Jacqueline Lyons, kept everyone looking their very best throughout the show.

Kudos to the Stage Manager Michael Fanuele and his assistant, Alba Ovales along with their crew for keeping the production running smoothly.

Elegantly directed by Donna Bellone, the show is fluid and paced well. The movements and groupings are as eloquent as the text. The dialogue, alternately witty and brutal, flows nicely. She has assembled a strong company who has considered every word and phrase. The characters feel full and rich.

Kat Robertson is a wonder and plays Catherine with great skill. She develops the role from desperate shyness to cold sternness. She first appears graceless and very awkward socially; a victim of her father's cruelty. We sympathize with her humanness and innocence. When in love with Morris, she is animated and endearing. And finally, the strong woman inside her rises to claim the anger she feels. When her aunt is shocked by her cruelty, Catherine's answer is, "I've been taught by masters!"

Mauro Contrastano is excellent as Dr. Sloper. He carries himself with  authority. He is sour, blunt and selfish, yet we sense the very real wounds he carries. We understand his loss and how Catherine is a constant source of pain to him.

The alluring Bryce Smith is Morris Townsend. He is courteous, charming and attractive, while irresponsible and fascinatingly insincere. Whether or not Morris loves Catherine for more than her fortune is a major theme in the play and Smith’s performance keeps us guessing.

Loretta Illustrato, shines in the part of Catherine’s Aunt Lavinia, she is warm, chatty, and ripe with foolish romanticism. A sincere and heart-felt performance By Leslie Messina as the widowed Mrs Montgomery, shows us all the insight and care that her brother Morris, seems to lack.
Justin Frison convincingly portrays Arthur Townsend as a braggart and the bit of a bore that he is. Ruth Chiamulera is bright and sharp-tongued as Dr. Sloper’s sister Elizabeth.
Nicole Arcieri is very good 
as the loving but careless cousin Marian.
The ubiquitous Mariah, the Slopers’ faithful maid, is beautifully played by Alba Ovalles. Her calming, unrushed transitions between scenes were a bit of magic,

Try to catch this fine Production of this captivating play. 

The Manor Club Theater presents THE HEIRESS by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, a Gothic romance filled with mystery and drama.
With Nicole Arcieri, Ruth Chiamulera, Mauro Contrastano, Justin Frison, Loretta Illustrato, Leslie Messina, Alba Ovalles, Kat Robertson and Bryce Smith.

Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday April 11, 12, 13 at 7:30pm
and Sunday, April 14 at 2:00pm.

General Admission Donation $30.00. TMC Members $25.00.
To order tickets:
Group Sales Information call 914-738-1528.

The Manor Club, 1023 Esplanade, Pelham Manor, NY 914-738-1528


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