Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Surprise - `the Heiress' Is Predictable, Yet Satisfying

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Surprise - `the Heiress' Is Predictable, Yet Satisfying

Article excerpt

Smooth, solid and subtly shaded as polished malachite, the production of "The Heiress" that opened Friday at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis offers the many satisfactions of a carefully made, intelligently produced play.

What it cannot offer is surprise.

That's not the fault of the production, or of director John Going. It's just that so many people know "The Heiress." Maybe they have read Henry James' "Washington Square," which playwrights Ruth and Augustus Goetz adapted into this successful psychological drama. (It's been a Broadway hit twice, first in 1947 and again last year.) Or maybe they have seen the movie with Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift; it's on TV often. Without suspense, the play is just a little too comfortable, like curling up in an old-fashioned parlor (like the one James Wolk designed for the set) with a good book. It's not thrill-a-minute, but it's hardly a form of punishment. And it does give you a chance to consider, at a safe distance, the emotional torture-chamber that the rosewood and upholstery so charmingly disguises. Simple in its plot, complicated just below the surface, "The Heiress" takes place in upper-crust New York in 1850, where Dr. Austin Sloper (Joneal Joplin) lives with his daughter, Catherine (Melissa King), a plain, socially inept woman whose good heart is no match for the memory of her brilliant, beautiful mother. When charming, unemployed Morris Townsend (Stevie Ray Dallimore) woos Catherine, she falls hard. But the domineering doctor is determined to get rid of Morris, whom he considers a self-indulgent fortune-hunter. What will happen? Those who don't know deserve to enjoy the story in its full psychological suspense, so let's say no more. For everyone else, the satisfaction lies in excellent performances that are true to James' intricate characters, as hard to pin down as the people we meet in real life. As Sloper, Joplin is at the top of his form. The doctor is, in many ways, a terrible father. …

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