Thursday, January 31, 2013

Better Late Than Never

Photo credit: Joan Marcus
The Heiress is closing on February 9, and I made it in just under the wire. I hadn't heard great things about this revival, so I thought about skipping it, but I'm glad I didn't because then I wouldn't have been introduced to Ruth and Augustus Goetz's entertaining and moving 1947 play. (I'd never seen the play or movie.)

Based on Washington Square by Henry James, the play is about shy Catherine Sloper (Jessica Chastain), who is a constant disappointment to her father, Dr. Austin Sloper (David Straithairn), because she cannot live up to his memory of her mother. Morris Townsend (Dan Stevens), a handsome but poor man, takes a liking to her, but her father suspects he is after her money. It's really a stretch to think of Chastain as a plain girl who no one would ever want to marry for anything other than money, even with a bad wig.

I don't want to reveal anything for those who haven't seen it, but I think it's a testament to the play that it really is a mystery for the audience as to whether or not Morris loves Catherine. I also think it's just as much about whether Dr. Sloper loves his daughter (I believe he does, despite the cruel things he says to her). I suppose it's saying something about this production, directed by Moises Kaufman, that I left not thinking about the performances (with the exception of Judith Ivey as Catherine's Aunt Penniman), but about how invested I was in the story.

I'm curious whether those of you who have seen it who weren't familiar with the play were as taken by it as I was. Also, are there any other productions that were criticized for not being as good as past productions, but that introduced you to plays that you liked?

1 comment:

Mildly Bitter said...

I had not seen the play before. I saw the movie a long time ago. I saw it during previews but the direction and performances made me feel like all the subtlety of the story was missing and they committed to very firm views of the characters which really undermined the play/story. Maybe they all just needed to find their groove and you saw it at the right time!