She Stoops to Conquer | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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She Stoops to Conquer

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She Stoops to Conquer, City Lit Theater Company. Seldom has a comic gem been as perfectly polished as this one is by director Terry McCabe. Psychologically knowing and hilariously plotted, Oliver Goldsmith's 1773 tale of shy suitor Marlow, who mistakes his beloved's home for an inn, teems with "the mistakes of a night." The playwright compassionately depicts an accomplished rake who turns tongue-tied before a respectable lady, a churlish hayseed with a heart of gold, an old-fashioned country squire whose best friend's son mistakes him for a servant, and an heiress who stoops to conquer, impersonating a barmaid in order to test her bashful lover.

Impeccably cast, City Lit's ensemble could not be more apt in their accents, expressions, timing, or characterizations, and Angelo D. Petronio's costumes are flawless. Thomas M. Shea explodes with apoplectic bluster as the "innkeeper," yoked to Karen Pratt's hysterical matron. Doug MacKechnie as Marlow is an 18th-century Jack Lemmon, lurching from confidence to impudence to modesty as he misconstrues his beloved, played with cunning range by Katherine Ripley. Melanie Esplin and James Foster chart their characters' tempestuous romance with Mozartean precision, and Jeff Thomakos as good-hearted tippler Tony Lumpkin turns the bumpkin stereotype inside out. This has to be the healthiest comedy ever written, embracing the decency that underlies our many frailties.

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