No one writes a finely-crafted comedy like the British playwrights of the Restoration and 18th Century. Oliver Goldsmith's 1773 She Stoops to Conquer, the current production at Chapel Hill's Deep Dish Theater Company, is certainly no exception. It is the perfect balance of deception and misunderstanding. The best thing about it is that all of the storylines do not unravel at once, and the truth is revealed slowly, making the comic suspense all the more wonderful.
The storyline seems complex, but when performed, makes sense. The story features around Marlow, who is terrified to interact with women of his own social station, and only interacts well with lower-class women. On their way to the home of Marlow's potential future bride Kate Hardcastle, he and his traveling companion Hastings get lost. They are directed, by Kate's scheming cousin, to the Hardcastle house, believing they were heading to an inn. All sorts of schemes ensue, including Kate pretending to be a barmaid, and Hastings trying to figure out a way that he and his love interest, Constance, can secure her jewels and elope.
The three servants have the potential to be consistently comical throughout the show, and though the actors were good enough, the characters were underutilized by the direction of the show. Some of the main characters, however, gave performances that live up to their lively characters. As Hastings, the sidekick with an agenda of his own, Brett Bolton is utterly delightful. His performance alone would make the price of the ticket worthwhile. Additionally, Jeffrey Vizcaino is perfectly cast as the up-to-no-good Tony Lumpkin. He really understands the comic timing of the character and is a delight to watch, particularly during a wonderful scene in the second act in which the character is at the same time trying to scare and calm his mother. The ensemble, as a whole, is not bad, and the pace of the show moves along well.
The set was wll-designed, and was a very good use of the small space at Deep Dish Theater. The play is a tried-and-true classic for a reason, and though slow in some points, overall the show does justice to the writing.
She Stoops to Conquer runs through November 17. For tickets and more information, visit www.deepdishtheater.org.