The Heiress at Olney's New Wonderful Theater
I remember my last visit to
Well, it has been overhauled in a most spectacular fashion into the
Now it's one thing to have a beautiful space what's most important is what's INSIDE.
And now playing at OTC, is the Victorian stage drama of love, honor, and betrayal, "The Heiress". It opened on Broadway in 1947 starring Wendy Hiller and Basil Rathbone (remember Sherlock Holmes?).You may have seen the 1949 Academy Award nominated film version notably played by Olivia DeHavilland, Ralph Richardson, and Montgomery Clift, the 1976 Broadway revival with Jane Alexander and Richard Kiley, or the 1995
Well, this professional Actor's Equity theater (with a $5.15 million budget), pulls out all the stops in presenting a wonderful production. Set in the rigidly structured society of 1850's NewYork, "The Heiress" is Ruth and Augustus Goetz' dramatization of the Henry James classic novel,
The central character is Catherine Sloper (Effie Johnson), the shy daughter of a wealthy physician, Dr. Austin Sloper (Ted van Griethuysen). Dr. Sloper has never forgiven his only child for the fact that his beloved, beautiful wife died giving birth to her. It is difficult to watch how the good doctor treats his daughter who he considers a "mediocre" individual and a grave disappointment.
Entering the picture is Morris Townsend (Jeffries Thaiss), a brash, good-looking suiter who has spent his inheritance and has nothing left. Dr. Sloper immediately suspects him to be a fortune-hunter with his eyes on Catherine's substantial inheritance.
Almost all the performers are first rate. Effie Johnson plays Catherine as a comely, dull, inexperienced 19th century woman with no chance of ever finding happiness or living up to her father's expectations. This is Johnson's first venture with OTC. She recently appeared on Broadway with Denzel Washington in "Julius Caesar" and "A Moon for the Misbegotten, as standy for Cherry Jones. Griethuysen is a well-established actor who is much more handsome on stage that the awful photo of him in the program. He is very convincing as the cold-hearted father.
I did not find Thaiss' performance as Townsend convincing and I'm not sure why. Was he too effeminate? Too over the top? Not handsome enough? His is a difficult role and it may just be that he was miscast or maybe I just didn't like his character.
In any event, the production is well worth seeing. It is directed admirably by the OTC Associate Artistic Director, John Going (who incredible as it may seem was the director of the "Lucky Stiff production I saw in 1990).
Special mention and kudos to Scenic Designer, James Wolk who's spacious set is just beautiful. It was thrilling to see the living room chandelier lowered to be lighted by candlelight and returned to his proper position. Some of the outfits by Liz Covey are atrocious but I'm sure they were intentionally so
If only the 1850's had the Bravo hit show "Project Runway". Lighting Designer, Nancy Schertler smartly takes us through the seasons in
A suggestion to the staff at OTC. I believe it would be beneficial to the general audience to include in the program, the wonderful background material about the play and the Victorian era that was available to critics.
Make the effort and discover a wonderful new theater and a great production.
"The Heiress" continues until March 12. Call 301-924-3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org.
To make your experience in Olney even more enjoyable, head to the wonderful small Belgian bistro, "Mannequin Pis",