Thursday, November 08, 2012
The show runs two hours and forty-five minutes but the time passes quickly as the play tells the story of naive and socially-awkward heiress Catherine Sloper (Jessica Chastain) who struggles to balance the demands of an emotionally distant father (David Strathairn) and the attentions of a passionate and persuasive gold-digger (Dan Stevens). Catherine must grow up painfully quickly to navigate and survive the demands of both of the men in her life. This production marks 17 years since the celebrated play was last seen on Broadway. The Heiress is based on the classic Henry James novel Washington Square and became an Academy Award-winning film.
Sloper's father, the neighborhood doctor, has no time and little use for his wall-flower daughter and blames her for the death of his wife during child birth. After one of his many impatient encounters with Catherine, he begs his sister to "help [Catherine] be clever". Given the nature of this relationship, it is little wonder that Catherine falls hard for aggressive suitor Morris Townsend. Accidental house guest Townsend pursues Sloper throughout the course of the first act and his motives, while suspect, aren't necessarily clear at first. Townsend's motives are ultimately revealed when he betrays Sloper's love and trust and ultimately breaks her heart. With this heartbreak, Sloper is forced to mature quickly and the curtain falls with Townsend getting his 'just deserts' and Sloper becoming as hard and emotionally distant as her recently deceased father.
This is a brilliant and bittersweet play that brings a dose of gritty realism to the holiday season.