Tag Archives: Tara Egan Langley

The Gate Theatre: The Heiress

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“You are good for nothing unless you are clever.” 

–  Henry James, The Heiress

Ruth and Augustus Goetz’ adaptation of Henry James’s novel Washington Square, The Heiress is probably one of the most perfectly unimpressive plays. It’s a typical story of the late 19th century life of  the other half. The constant battle of money, affection and betrayal. It’s also a story where one of the main characters is none the less but a house,  beautiful but soulless space that becomes a prison for some and the entrance into the garden of Eden for the others. New York’s Washington Square charms, it attracts and mesmerizes people who have once seen its rich beauty and now are unable to let it go.They want it for themselves no matter what.

Slightly over two hours long The Heiress is a flaying piece with only a handful of characters. Centered mainly on the life of Catherine Sloper (played by Karen McCarthy), the only daughter of Dr. Sloper (played by Denis Conway) and his late but still very much beloved wife. A simple, bubbly, home life appreciative Cathy perhaps isn’t the best match for the gentlemen of the New York nobility but a spark of hope lights when she meets Morris Townsend (played by Donal Gallery). Against her father’s will and with the help of her spinster auntie Lavinia (played by Marion O’Dwyer), who is a great character herself, a secret marriage has been arranged. For Catherine the decision has already been made but what about the young fiancé who is a bit unimpressed to find out that in the case of this marriage taking place his young wife most definitely will be disinherited?

A cruel story of false promises of love, sour betrayal and cold-hearted but sweet revenge shows us one of the best examples of a strong female characterization in a dramatic play. Catherine is indeed a very enjoyable character whose personal growth is nothing but fascinating to witness.

Even though the play does have some very nice lines to feed one's mind and the acting is as superb as always, there was something missing in the piece to make it stand out. Too sweet and perfect to challenge the audience.

On a slightly more positive note, Jonathan Fenson’s stunning stage and dress designs made it an absolute pleasure for the eye to watch the play. I really enjoyed the captivating depth of the stage and how well it symbolically represented the story.

Directed by David Grindley, The Heiress runs in Dublin’s Gate Theatre until January 21st. Only a few chances left to catch it. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/TheHeiress2016

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Filed under Henry James, Ruth and Augustus Goetz, The Gate Theatre, The Heiress, Uncategorized, Washington Square

The Gate Theatre: The Constant Wife

The summer season at The Gate theatre has been opened with W. Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife. Interestingly enough, this is not The Gate’s first time staging this particular production; the previous revival of one of Somerset Maugham’s most famous plays was staged at the Dublin’s Gate Theatre exactly ten years ago, in 2006.

The Gate definitely does like its classics. Now with a new cast and in new decorations, this funny and, dare I say, feminist play strikes again. The Constant Wife (written in 1926) is a story of an upper-class wife, fatefully named Constance (played by Tara Egan Langley), whos husband is cheating on her with her best friend, the young and cheerful Marie Louise (played by Caoimhe O’Malley). The affair isn’t a big secret to anyone, including Constance, her mother (played by Belinda Lang) and younger sister Martha (Rachel O’Byrne). Each of the three women has her own opinion, hugely influenced by the time and society she was raised in, on what Constance should do about the adultery. Being a smart and progressively thinking woman herself, who can foresee the situation and use it for her own good, Constance makes a very creative though slightly unorthodox decision on how to teach her unfaithful husband a lesson. This decision, anyhow, might have been, in its turn, influenced by the return of an old but long-lasting flame of Constance’s; the man named Bernard (played by Conor Mullen), who had already tried his luck but was  bitterly turned down, has again entered the picture.

The Constant Wife, being a comedy of manners, is an interesting play that through crisp and funny lines raises an important issue. No doubt, this play was way beyond its time and popular ideas when it was written. The beautiful, predominantly female, ensemble of nine characters draws an interesting picture of the epoch. Being a sort of rebel, each one in her own way, the women in The Constant Wife express their opinions on marriage and family  with passion and far from narrow-thinking. They come across as strong, decisive, smart and even a bit of a risqué women of their time; while the men of the play are pictured rather dependent, foolish and somewhat childish.

With the brilliant and, at moments, ludicrously funny plot (especially, the second part of the play), beautiful period costumes (by Peter O’Brien) and the absolutely stunning set design (by Eileen Diss), the two hours simply fly by. The Constant Wife is another great example of a play that is timeless. Written almost a century ago, the issues and the situations that the play presents are easy to understand, enjoy and relate to.

This particular production really stood out for me mainly because of the actors’ ensemble. A very strong casting choice was made by the director of the piece Alan Stanford. Tara Egan Langley as Constance is a beautiful icon of female strength creates a very nice contrast to O’Malley’s bubbly, happy-go-lucky and absolutely careless Marie Louise. Special kudos have to be given to Belinda Lang, who gives a splendid performance as Mrs. Culver, and to Simon O’Gorman, whose character really comes alive in the second part of the play.

The Constant Wife runs in The Gate Theatre until August 13th. It’s a great pick for a fun night out. For more info or to book tickets: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/production/TheConstantWife2016

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Filed under Alan Stanford, The Constant Wife, The Gate Theatre, W. Somerset Maugham