She Stoops to Conquer--An 18th Century Comedy of Manners at RVP

Sean Mirkovich as Marlow and Jocelyn Roddie as Kate in She Stoops to Conquer

Written by Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer was first performed in London in 1773 and is one of the few plays from the 18th century still regularly performed today.  In the story, Mr. Hardcastle (Alex Ross) wants his daughter, Kate (Jocelyn Roddie) to meet and marry the wealthy Charles Marlow (Sean Mirkovich), but Marlow gets nervous around upper-class women so Kate needs to pretend to be "common" and "stoops to conquer" by pretending to be a bar-maid.

The play is set in an English village in 1765. When the play begins, Marlow sets out for the Hardcastle's manor with a friend, George Hastings (Adam Roy), an admirer of Miss Constance Neville (Kushi Beauchamp), another young lady who lives at the Hardcastle's.  During the journey, the two men become lost and run into Tony Lumpkin (Josh Garcia-Cotter), Kate's stepbrother and cousin to Constance.  Tony plays a practical joke by telling the two men that they are a long way from their destination and will have to stay overnight at an inn.  The "inn" he directs them to is in fact the home of the Hardcastle's.  When they arrive, the Hardcastles who have been expecting them, go out of their way to feel welcome.  However, Marlow and Hastings, believing themselves at an inn, behave disdainfully towards their hosts.  But Mr. Hardcastle bears their unwitting insults with forbearance because of his friendship with Marlow's father.  

Kate learns of her suitor's shyness from Constance, and a servant tells her about Tony's trick.  She decides to masquerade as a bar-maid changing her accent and costume in order to get to know him.  Marlow falls in love with her because she appears of a lower class and acts somewhat bawdy.  All misunderstandings are resolved by the end thanks to an appearance by Sir Charles Marlow (John Anthony Nolan).  

In the sub-plot, Mr. Hardcastle's second wife (Maureen O'Donoghue) is quite determined that her spoiled and not too brilliant son, Tony Lumpkin shall marry her niece, Constance Neville.  Constance, however, has other plans, being secretly pledged to Hastings.  

British-born Director Judy Holmes, breaks the fourth wall and makes the most of the asides the characters have with the audience.  

Alex Ross as Mr. Hardcastle gives a great performance and is the glue holding the play together. Jocelyn Roddie as Kate has a wonderful sense of timing and is excellent in her alter-ego, the bar-maid.  Sean Mirkovich as Marlow is able to switch confidently from stammering shyness of women of his social class to lascivious lothario with the bar-maid.  Maureen O'Donoghue is delightful as the fashion seeker who easily succumbs to flattery.  Kushi Beauchamp as Constance and Adam Roy as Hastings make a sincere eloping couple.  As Tony Lumpkin, Josh Garcia-Cotter has captured the oafishness of his character.  

Set Designer Ken Rowland has created the perfect English country manor and Michael A. Berg's costumes are authentic and elegant.  

She Stoops to Conquer is a wonderful play and excellently directed by Judy Holmes in the perfect style of an 18th century Comedy of Manners.  

She Stoops to Conquer plays through February 19, 2012.  Thursday performances are held at 7:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. All performances are at Ross Valley Players Barn Theatre, Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. For reservations, call 415-456-9555, extension 1 or go to:

Coming up next at Ross Valley Players will be 20th Century by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, adapted by Ken Ludwig and directed by Billie Cox from March 23-April 22, 2012.

Flora Lynn Isaacson