~The Heiress on Broadway 10/17/12 Naomi~

This Wednesday we went to see ‘The Heiress’ on broadway with Jessica Chastain (Catherine Sloper), Dan Stevens (Morris Townsend), David Strathairn (Dr. Austin Sloper), and Judith Ivey ( Aunt Lavinia Penniman).  This was my second straight Broadway play, the first being ‘Death of a Salesman’ with Andrew Garfield and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

I enjoyed seeing the play adaptation of the book Washington Square even though it was not entirely what I had imagined the world of Washington Square to be.  This was the first play that I saw, musical or straight, where I knew the basic story before I saw the show.  As a result of this prior knowledge I was constantly looking to draw comparisons between the play and the novel because I had already built up this idea in my head of what each moment should look and sound like.

Although I enjoyed the play overall, I don’t feel that Dan Stevens did a good job of being a jerk.  I liked him too much to be Morris Townsend.  I pictured Morris as very aggressive and arrogant and a little impatient with Aunt Penniman.  Stevens’ interpretation was too sincere, that I almost believed that he actually loved Catherine.  The only time that I felt that his ‘Morrisness’ showed was when he was running to hide the cigars and brandy that he had been helping himself to in the Dr.’s absence.

Additionally I respect Jessica Chastain’s interpretation of Catherine, but I felt that at moments she was overtly awkward, to the point of rivaling Aunt Penniman as the comic relief of the play.  Drastic changes is her voice such as getting deeper when she told her father “I’m getting married” were more comedic than I had expected Catherine as a character to be (although I acknowledge that it was not Catherine who interpreted herself as being funny, but rather Jessica’s delivery of the line that was comical).  Nevertheless, I feel that Catherine hit a stride when she forced her father to write her out of his will.  I enjoyed Jessica’s interpretation of a stoic Catherine Sloper who has been broken  by both her father and suitor, and I loved Jessica’s performance in the final scene of the play when she locked Morris out of the house, turned off the lights and walked up the stairs.  The image of her walking up in that beautiful gown only lit by lantern is etched into my mind.

Along with the ending of the play, which was different from the novel, and much more dramatic.  I liked how David Strathairn played Dr. Sloper as very remorseful.  You could really tell that he missed his wife, and although he was very harsh with Catherine I liked how in the play Catherine forced him to write her out of his will, as oppose to him doing it on his own.  I didn’t like how in the novel Dr. Sloper didn’t trust Catherine and decreased her inheritance.  I thought that it was nice that in the play you could see that in the end, despite his disappointment in Catherine, he still loved her, and felt bad that Morris had broken her heart.  In the book I felt that Dr. Sloper took too much enjoyment in telling Catherine “I told you so” after Morris jilted her.

All in all, I enjoyed seeing ‘The Heiress’ on Broadway, and I am grateful for the opportunity, especially because it is in limited run.