THEATRE: THE HEIRESS
I’ve seen The Heiress before, first the super-depressing 1949 movie starring Olivia De Havilland, and later at the Ahmanson Theatre with Cherry Jones in the title role. I hate the story, but absolutely love, love, love Richard Chamberlain, (and the Pasadena Playhouse, too,) so I just had to see this version in which he stars. And I’m so glad I did because this production was wonderful!
Before I review the show, I must first share some youthful musings about Mr. Chamberlain. I never saw anyone more gorgeous than that man when I was little! I’m proud of myself for having such great taste when I was that young! I’d still marry 1960s Richard Chamberlain now if I could. (But he would have to duke it out with 1940s Cary Grant. Or Gregory Peck.) And seeing him in Thornbirds made me want to turn Catholic!
So when he entered the stage on opening night, I applauded like a four-year-old. I was almost embarrassed in front of myself. (I had first applauded the perfect set, by John Iacovelli, but it was a whole different child-like clapping I did when Mr. C entered.)
Now to the play review:
I rarely describe the action of films and stage shows I review, so as to not spoil it for you, but I just saw this description of the movie on IMDB, when I was looking-up the year, and it’s so perfect and succinct that I just have to share it with you: “A young naive woman falls for a handsome young man who* her emotionally abusive father suspects is a fortune hunter.” Dot, dash, end of story.
But is it? No, not really. I had not counted on the amount of humor, nor the charm, that director Damaso Rodriguez brought to this incarnation. I had had a similar experience when I saw the play Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolff when I was first starting out in L.A. I had seen only the torturous film, (that I tell the neighbors Mr. X and I are rehearsing all the time,) so I was startled by my own laughter that Glenda Jackson and John Lithgow invoked in me. And The Heiress was just like that. Despite the depressing-ness inherent in the plot, the audience was constantly laughing. The mirth was such a great surprise!
I can usually find fault with all show biz situations, but I really couldn’t in this case. The cast was excellent, and of course, that gorgeous, familiar voice of Richard Chamberlain, as the rotten father, was music to my ears.
I wasn’t familiar with the rest of the cast, save for Heather Tom as the heiress herself, and I must admit that she totally surprised me. I had seen her only as Victoria Newman on the soap opera The Young and The Restless, and that was many years ago. I had never been impressed. But she gave a commanding performance here. She’s considered good-looking on the soaps, so I was wondering what they were going to do with her in this show, to show her as a super-plain, perhaps even unattractive, girl. It’s amazing what some heavy-handed eyebrow pencil, and more importantly, some kielbasa sausage wrapped around the ears as a hairdo, can do. The whole plot line would have been eradicated if I had been the character’s friend; I would have just changed her hair and make-up and she would have had her pick of dudes to marry! Oh well.
The play, as written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, way back in 1947(!), consisted of so very many clever lines, most of which evoked hearty laughter in the audience. I’m sure the delivery of the talented cast helped, especially in the last scenes, first with one simple utterance by Julia Duffy, as the aunt, and then in the scene between Catherine and Morris. I wrote down one or two of the lines at the beginning, but there were so many, and they were coming so fast, that, for the first time ever, I decided to just buy the script to have them all! Here’s an example, declared by the father: “You are good for nothing, unless you are clever.” I saw, “Amen” to that!
The after-party, in the front courtyard, featured foods from different eateries, and included sushi, salad, two kinds of pasta, and cupcakes, all delish. Even better than the food, for some folks, was the guest list. I haven’t watched soaps for years, but even so, I did recognize the faces of a few of Heather’s co-stars from the CBS shows, including Don Diamont, Christina LeBlanc, and the still handsome John McCook.
I’m so grateful that the kind PR people saw fit to introduce me to Richard Chamberlain, with cameras flashing. It was a brief encounter, but one I’ll always cherish. (In my mind only; the snaps of me were so brutal that I decided to spare you all. And never wear that ensemble again!) (Okay, maybe lose a few pounds while I’m burning the dress. Or else, I may just as well be rocking that kielbasa ‘do! As one of my old pals said when she saw me with this weight gain, “At least you’re tall!!!” I hear ya, sister. And, as the play states, at least I’m clever. Occasionally.)
*[Note: The “who” in that IMDB description should have been “whom.” I'll tell you the rule sometime when I finally get around to beginning my Grammar section.]
The Heiress running through May 20, 2012
Pasadena Playhouse 39 South El Molino Ave. Pasadena 626-356-7529 www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org