December 9, 2010

Mad Cow conquers a classic

When I asked my patient other half, "If I buy tickets to this play, will you come with me?" his only question was "when?"

It seems to me that few modern men are interested in classical theater, and the audience at the theater reinforced the idea. I believe the women outnumbered the men two to one. Almost as bad a ratio as at a figure skating show.

Well, the absent fellas don't know what they're missing. The Mad Cow Theatre Company's production of She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith is brilliant.

Mad Cow Theater Company photo of
Elizabeth Takacs as Constance Neville
and Melanie Whipple as Kate Hardcastle
Mad Cow Theatre is tucked into the ground floor of a downtown office building. The cast and crew make excellent use of a quirky space: The theater is L-shaped, with the stage in the corner and the seats in each branch. It's a cozy house -- seating about 220-250 people, I guesstimate -- so the performance really is intimate. When characters break into soliloquy, they really are talking to you.

The cast is fabulous. Brian Brightman as Marlow and Melanie Whipple as Kate are especially charming in their repartee. Engaging, star-quality performances.

In an article about Oliver Goldsmith published in 1935, Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates wrote: "this play sounded the keynote of Goldsmith's 'mission' . . . to render more natural the comedy of his time and to strike a decisive blow at the 'genteel' or 'sentimental' comedy of his contemporaries." She Stoops to Conquer may not be considered natural by modern standards, but it is nevertheless fresh and delightful.

It's a shame that such a small house was not sold out on a Saturday night. It was nearly full, but still, I had thought a play this clever and funny, performed by such outstanding actors, could fill even a large auditorium.

Perhaps it's because not many people have other halves who enjoy theater as much as mine does. Or maybe it's that not many people offer to buy the tickets.

She Stoops to Conquer is playing at the Mad Cow Theatre through Dec. 19. If you enjoy comedy, buy the tickets. You'll love it.

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