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BWW Reviews: Stratford Festival's SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER

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SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER opened recently at Stratford Festival's Avon Theatre. This production is directed by Martha Henry, and features a phenomenal cast including: Lucy Peacock, Joseph Ziegler, Brad Hodder, Tyrone Savage, Karack Osborn, Sara Farb, and Maev Beaty. As you watch it, it quickly becomes clear why this play has withheld the test of time.

Written by Oliver Goldsmith, and first performed in 1773, this comedy of manners-which can also be described as a comedy of errors, is about the Hardcastle family and the prospective suitors of their daughter and niece. Intentional trickery, mistaken identity, and the shyness of certain character around gentlewomen, lead to a series of incredibly comical moments that had audience members howling.

As Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle, Joseph Ziegler and Lucy Peacock are charming and funny. Mr. Ziegler excels at portraying Mr. Hardcastle's utter confusion and frustration at Young Charles Marlow (Brad Hodder) and his apparent lack of respect for the father of his intended. Ms. Peacock is hilarious as a woman determined to find a wife for her son and in doing so, to keep some precious jewels in the family. Sara Farb is also very funny as Constance Neville, and Karack Osborn is absolutely hysterical as Tony Lumpkin, the disappointment of a son to the Hardcastles.

Brad Hodder as Marlow and Tyrone Savage (as George Hastings-a suitor for the Hardcastles' daughter) are both fantastic as well, as is Maev Beaty who portrays the aforementioned daughter, Miss Kate Hardcastle. As an audience member, you discover that it is possible to cringe with delight as you watch young Marlow act so rudely toward a man he thinks is an Inn Keeper, but is actually his potential father in law. This allows for some fantastic comedic moments.

Another element to this production that makes it work so well, is the set design by Douglas Paraschuk. This has got to be my favourite set so far this season at the festival. Multiple backdrops on a giant swivel allow for an easy transition between locations. Each backdrop has exquisite detail, whether it is the Hardcastle home, a local pub, or a wooded area. Mr. Paraschuk has outdone himself.

Being part of a Repertory Theatre Festival means that most of the actors are in two or three productions each season. The majority of this cast is also in THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. Walking out of the theatre, I found myself thinking about how drastically different these two plays are. This one is so much lighter, the dynamics that the actors play are so different, and the stakes cannot even be compared. It must be refreshing for the cast to alternate between two very different pieces of art. It is also incredibly impressive.

If you are looking for something to make you smile, look no further than SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER. Laugh out loud humour, beautiful set design, and an excellent cast make for an enjoyable evening (or matinee) at the theatre.

SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER plays in repertory at the Avon Theatre until October 10th.

Photo Credit: David Hou


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