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October 20, 1978 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1978-10-20

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ge 6-Friday; October 20, 1978--The Michigan Daily
JoShe can
Two years ago, the Acting Company,
a New York troupe of professionals led
by ultra-professional John Houseman,
brought a production of Oliver Gold-
smith's She Stoops to Conquer to the
Power Center for a successful three-
day run.
Two days ago, a Professional Theater
Program troupe of students (save one
A rts professional) opened a production of
the very same play. This is in one
respect a silly move, as there are cer-
tainly enough under-performed
restoration comedies about to exploit
public interest in the genre without
trodding over recently-worn ground.
At the same time, one must applaud
the Guest Artist group for daring to do a
play that surely invites comparison by
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ie, she s
any Ann Arborite who has been in town
long enough to have see both produc-
tions. The gamble pays off. There are
even aspects of the current effort that
outshine the polished rendition handed
us by Houseman.
ONE SUCH item is director Andrew
Mendelson's careful attention to those
details of the script which go beyond the
play's predominant mood, hilarity, and
add the factor of human warmth. An
example is the unveiling and sub-
sequent explanation of the
protagonist's central dilemma: Charles
Marlow (David Manis), desirous of a
mate, finds, himself unable to take even
the first steps which would land him a
wife. In the presence of a "modest"
lady, i.e., one as well-bred as he and of
his social class, he finds his speech
inhibited, face flushed, and his whole
demeanor one of terrified anxiety.
When Marlow reaches the explanation
of his frustrating condition, director
Mendelson decides to throw emphasis
his way via design and blocking. It
emerges that the lack of observable
tenderness in the typical gen-
tlewoman's character is the cause of
Marlow's battles with cold feet.
Not only is the revelation touching,
but one of the play's element-~ with
which a 20th century audience can most
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easily identify. To us, too, the ladies of
the time are somewhat inaccessible.
We rejoice with Marlow when his inten-
ded breaks down and sheds a tear,
disclosing the awful truth that she, too,
is human. Mendelson's delicate accent
on this point in the script, especially as
contrasted with the Acting Company's
virtual throw-away of the lines, merits
WILLIAM LEACH, She Stoops' sole
pro, is in Ann Arbor for his seventh
guest artist spot in four seasons. In all
but one of those roles (Dysart in
Equus), Leach has played ap-
proximately the same character: a
grizzled, weathered, somewhat run-
down old man, usually with some slight

she conquered

She. Stoops to Conquer
By Oliver Goldsmith
Professional Theatre Program
Po wer (Cen let

Mr. Hardcastle..............William Leach
Mrs. Dorothy
iardcastle........Kathy Eacker Badgerow
Tony Lumpkin.............Scott Hammonds
Kate Hardcastle............... Elizabeth Kelly
Constance Neville ......... Elizabeth A. Harrell
Charles Marlow...............David Manis
George Hastings........ ........... Don Hart
Sir Charles Marlow........... Leo McNamara
Andrew Mendelson, director; Alan Billings,
seis; Sheradi Cannon, costunoe; Edward Thomas,
(Gutman in Camino Real) or great
(Touchstone in As You Like It) sense of
humor. Here, though there are cer-
tainly some freshly funny moments,
Leach offers little that is new. There is
a sameness about the creased-brow.
gape of indignance, the hurriedly clum-
sy pacing about in anxiety, and
especially the familiar mugging at the
audience, that dampens the experience.
This is not to say that Leach is un-
talented or comedically ungifted. He is
neither, and seasoned Leach-watchers
and newcomers to the Power Center
alike will chortle at Leach's amusing
reactions to his son-in-law-to-be's
outlandish behavior. But the instances
of deja vu one experiences while wat-
ching Leach cavort are altogether sad-
dening. How about a stab at somefhing
enl rely different, Bill?
Eiizabeth Kelly is affecting and
lovely as Kate Hardcastle. It is she who
sheds the crucial tear which helps
Marlow out of his condition, and she
who, by masquerading as a barmaid,
finds it necessary to stoop in order to
conquer Marlow's heart. Throughout
the show, Kelly slides gracefully back
and forth between her conspiratorial
plotting with friend and/or audience,
and.the perseverance which eventually
nets her man.
DON HART plays George Hastings,
close friend to young Marlow and ab-
ettor to his entanglements. Though in
his first appearance Hart exhibits his
custf nary stiffness, it soon clears up.
He s ems to have broken away from the

PTP Guest-Artist-In-Residence William Leach portrays Mr. Hardcastle in
Oliver Goldsmith's 18th century English comedy, "She Stoops To Conquer,"
with Elizabeth Kelly in the role of his daughter, Kate.

Leach syndrome of self-imitation for
this show, and comes up with some gen-
uinely original schtick. Hart is at his
most elegantly funny when he parodies
"gentlemanly" manners. Every un-
ctuous flick of his wrist brings on
another mirthful gale of laughter as he
minces around Mrs. Hardcastle,
suavely reassuring her of her own
questionable appeal. Later on, in
another comic highlight, Mrs. Har-
dcastle reads Hastings' description of
her - intended for her son's eyes - as a
"hag." Delicious.
Kathy Badgerow, acknowledged by
some as the best comic actress in Ann
Arbor, falls a good bit short of fulfilling
her enormous capacity to amuse. I
suspect that director Mendelson,
keenly successful in his work with most
of the men, neglected to spend adequate,
time working with Badgerow and with
Elizabeth Harrell, who muddles out a
portrayal of Constance, Kate's con-
fidante. A shame, really, because with
adequate preparation, Badgerow's
dozen funny moments could have been
multiplied three-fold, and Harrell could
have carried off her tricky portrayal
with considerably greater aplomb.
THE THREE female leads shared
another problem, a squeaky, forced
quality in their voices during more than
a few scenes. The problem might be the
tight corsets hugging the actresses'
breathing apparatuses. If that is the
case, then there is no one and nothing to
blame but the repressive dress code of
the mid-1770s.-
Of the seven servants that variously
dress the stage, James Freeman's
characterization of a fat, doddering
sadsack is most interesting. What
makes his performance eye-catching is
that it is totally unnecessary to the
play's effect, yet adds a believable,
friendly touch to the main action.
Freeman and Mendelson both deserve
credit for a frill so subtly attached.
Mendelson alone gets the blame for

casting the depressing Scott Hammon-
ds as Tony Lumpkin. Hammonds'
character is immature, sure, but since
when does immaturity necessitate con-
stant indignity and obnoxiousness?
Hammonds scuttles about like a mouse,
and his tinny vocalization makes him 0
constant irritation.
There is one more critical task that
needs doing. It is considered dangerous
and foolish for a critic to deal in
superlatives, but there are times when
an honest man has no choice, and this is
or)e such time: David Manis is the
ablest actor at the University of
Michigan. His voice is beautifully con-
trolled, and new levels of capability
have enriched it since I last saw him in
the summer's otherwise disastrous Two
Gentlemen of Verona.
In Marlow's (Manis') first meeting
with his future bride, when he is still
unable to deal with women, he and Kate
(Kelly) engage in a slow circle dance as
Kelly tries to draw him in, and Manis
attempts just the opposite. Manis once
tries to break the constraints of his fear
and move towards her, but is quickly
compelled to give up. As Manis backs
away, a remarkable event transpires'
His foot, reaching out for and gingerly
settling on a step downstage right, con-
veys more of his unease than most
University actors are able to convey
convincingly with their whole bodies. It
is one tiny, but representative element
of a remarkable performance.
In late November, Manis will step in,
to Bolingbroke's shoes, to play opposite
Christopher Walken (Annie Hall's
brother in the Woody Allen film) in
Richard 11. The complexity of that role
is more suitable to an actor of such
evident gifts, and there is no question
that Manis is equal to the challenge.
In the meantime, there are three per
formances left of She Stoops to
Conquer. Pitfalls notwithstanding, it,
beats Laverne and Shirley. Consider it


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