STEUBENVILLE - A curious account of two-facedness and light-hearted mischief with bountiful amounts of romance and merriment recently pervaded Franciscan University of Steubenville's Anathan Theatre, as Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer" graced the stage.
The production, directed by drama professor Shawn Dougherty, was pure bliss for any and all fun-seeking theater-goers. "She Stoops to Conquer" recounts the affairs of maiden Kate Hardcastle, who is informed by her father that she is to wed the son of one of his dearest friends. She soon learns that her proposed fiance may not be all he appears, as most know him to be tremendously timid, while others have sworn he is quite the playboy. Kate's quest to discover the young man's true behavior intertwines with a spirited and whimsical situation of hypocrisy and trickery.
As Kate Hardcastle, Melissa Redfield exuded a great sense of admirable determination and quick-wittedness. Highly amusing was Redfield's interaction with Julian Curi's energetic and somewhat eccentric Mr. Hardcastle, Kate's adoring father. Redfield's sassy demeanor and Curi's playful attitude as they bet about who was correct about Marlowe's true behavior were most charming, and it seemed as though they were both closely bonded children playing with each other.
Displaying a disarming knack for physical comedy was Andy Ward as Charles Marlowe, the believed faint-hearted young man to whom Kate has been promised. Ward's stammering speech, swooning staggers and incredibly low bows - all while in the presence of Redfield's cultured Kate - endowed the play with hysterical folderol.
Kit Adderley as George Hastings, Marlowe's friend and traveling companion, brought a winsome suavity to his characterization. His moments with Rose van Shaijik provided a pleasing romantic quality to his interpretation, while his scenes alone with Ward's Marlowe allowed an arrogant side to both men's characters to surface.
As the interminably domineering and intermittently tender Mrs. Hardcastle, Claire Schroeder glowed, especially in the scenes she shared with Joe Andreola as her coddled, rascally, tavern-loving son from another marriage, Tony Lumpkin.
Andreola and Schroeder were hugely entertaining as they fawned over each other, or, in some cases, as Schroeder intimidated her mischievous, happy-go-lucky child.
Adding splendid liveliness to the play's atmosphere was an ensemble of students who partook of numerous roles, such as singers of drinking songs, tavern-goers and dim-witted servants.
The production was also complimented by attractive and inviting design elements, including warm lighting, striking paintings hanging above several of the set's many doorways, ornate Victorian costumes, oriental rugs and a cockatiel, who added charming song throughout the production.
Franciscan University of Steubenville's joyous production of "She Stoops to Conquer" was truly a source of uplifting beauty for the eyes but especially for the heart.
(Reed is theater critic for Weekender.)