Goldsmith play to cap a season of comedies

May 13, 1994|By Rona Hirsch | Rona Hirsch,Contributing Writer

To fully appreciate how little has changed on the dating scene in the last 200 years, one only has to see the play "She Stoops To Conquer."

Men woo, women woo; men scheme, women scheme.

And then there are the parents.

That is the pull of the classic comedy that will be presented by the Columbia Community Players at 8 p.m. today, tomorrow and May 20 and 21 at Slayton House in Columbia.

Produced in 1773 in London, the 221-year-old play by Oliver Goldsmith could just as well be a contemporary farce.

Complete with mistaken identities and confusion, the production takes stabs at the upper class and its obsession with status while spotlighting the pitfalls of courting.

The plot revolves around the Hardcastles, who live in the London suburbs.

Mr. Hardcastle (Richard Runge) would like to marry off his pretty and smart daughter Kate (Stacey Werling) to Young Marlow (Alan Harbaugh). He is the rich, handsome and virtuous son of Mr. Hardcastle's good friend, Sir Charles Marlow (Jerry Gietka).

Mrs. Hardcastle (Kathleen Turyn Romaine) would like to marry off her irresponsible and practical-joker son Tony (Bill Stanley) to his pretty and smart orphaned cousin Constance (Dana Morgan).

Constance, a poor relation, wants no part of Tony. And Tony would rather hang out with his buddies at the local bar and grill or ride his horses.

Our story begins with the family preparing for a visit from the intended and unseen Marlow, who is accompanied by his good friend Hastings.

Tony meets up with them on the road and, fun-loving guy that he is, fools the two into thinking that the Hardcastle home is a local inn where they can spend the night.

Tensions build when the young men meet Mr. Hardcastle and order him around, thinking he is the night manager. Mr. Hardcastle thinks Marlow is most impudent and is ready to call the marriage off.

When young Marlow meets Kate, he becomes intimidated and shy, a fate he suffers whenever he is around women of his own class. He can't even look her in the face.

But, strangely, he turns into Cary Grant when he is around servant girls.

When Kate, who is totally unimpressed, realizes this, she decides to pretend she is a barmaid.

Meanwhile, Hastings and Constance fall in love but hide it until they can steal her jewels from the brassy and shrewish Mrs. Hardcastle.

The lady of the castle is under the delusion that Tony and Constance are in love, mistaking their shoves for affectionate pats.

"She Stoops To Conquer" is the final production of the Columbia Community Players' 21st season, an all-comedy series.

"Two years ago, we decided to do only comedies," said director Laurence Bory. "It was a revolutionary step.

"We thought we might get more people in, maybe people who don't want melodrama or a mystery, who just want entertainment."

This season, they produced "Forty Carats" and "A Bedroom Farce."

For the final show, they selected the classic because "we felt a little more ambitious because of the costumes, the set, style and language which necessitated a different type of direction," he said.

"For a contemporary British play, they talk the way they usually do, just with an accent. It's not difficult to assume a British accent for contemporary conversation. But this is 18th-century language. Yet Goldsmith makes it easy to understand."

The play, which originally was well received, hit the tour circuit soon after it opened.

"It quickly came to this country because people in the Colonies who could afford it were theater-minded," Mr. Bory said. "They also wanted to hear what was going on in the home country."

Two hundred years later, it's still a popular script, often selected for college productions. It is also produced annually at Colonial Williamsburg as a tourist attraction, he said.

The play is deftly directed by Mr. Bory, a Columbia resident, who has directed "hundreds of plays and musicals."

He joined the company in 1978, directing "Dracula," "Steel Magnolias," "Born Yesterday" and "No Sex Please, We're British."

His directorial debut came during the Depression while he was performing in summer stock. But after World War II, he decided to pursue a career as a teacher.

"I had a lot of energy," he said. "But I realized I couldn't live on that. Teaching was a little more secure than wandering from agent to agent with an 8-by-10 glossy."

He became a theater arts and speech teacher in a New York high school and college for 32 years before retiring in the mid-1970s.

In 1992, he and his wife, Helen, the show's business manager, who is also in charge of the play's costumes, were voted Howard County Outstanding Volunteer in the Arts.

Mr. Bory brings the benefits of his rounded career to the production.

His 14 cast members take pleasure in their well-defined characters, accents and costumes, proving that, in "She Stoops To Conquer," as in all romantic comedies, fun conquers all.

Columbia Community Players will present "She Stoops to Conquer" at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow and May 20 and May 21 at Slayton House in Columbia.

General admission is $8. Tickets for seniors and students are $7. Group rates are available.

Information: 381-4864.

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