THE HEIRESS, Apple Tree Theatre. Fans of the excellent 1949 film treatment of Henry James's 1881 Washington Square will be enthralled by Apple Tree's revival of Ruth and Augustus Goetz's 1947 script. Superbly cast, finely tuned, and consummately acted, this production is as textured and nuanced as the film, and so psychologically precise that its 160 minutes fly by too fast. Director Eileen Boevers gets everything right--the look, feel, irony, and impact. On opening night the audience listened hard enough to justify the pin-drop proverb.

Among the three characters whose happiness can never be mutual is plain, shy Catherine Sloper, as self-effacing and reclusive a daughter as Emily Dickinson. Austin, Catherine's bitter, suspicious, and wealthy physician father, perpetually mourns Catherine's mother, to whom the daughter can never measure up. Catherine's way out is Morris Townsend, a handsome but improvident suitor who incites the passions Catherine believed she'd surrendered to others.

Out of this impasse erupts a drawing-room tragedy that's equally engrossing whether you know the story intimately or can't guess the next crisis. Susan Moniz gives the title role a four-star range, David New depicts Morris with atomic precision, and David Darlow plays the coldly cynical doctor with a deadpan wit sharper than scalpels. The supporting actors are practically pillars, and the sumptuous front parlor (by J. Branson) and impeccable costumes (by Jack Kirkby) underscore the accuracy of this captivating revival.

--Lawrence Bommer

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