Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

She Stoops to Conquer
West End Productions
Review by Stephanie Hainsfurther

Also see Rob's review of Company, Dean's review of Sanctuary: A Medieval Murder Mystery, and Stephanie's review of The Lady in Question

Neil Faulconbridge, Lev Handmaker,
and Colleen Neary McClure

Photo by George A. Williams
A multimedia production of an 18th-century play is only the first delight offered us by West End Productions, a newly formed theater company focused on classic and contemporary playwrights from the United Kingdom. She Stoops to Conquer is a staple of English classes and Irish plays, and she's in good hands here. Utterly charming, really funny, well-acted plays are hard to find in any season, but this one actually uses the word "trumpery." How can you resist?

Young Marlow (Timothy E. Riley) is on his way to the Hardcastle home to woo their daughter Kate (Jessica Osbourne). How this will be accomplished, no one knows: Marlow is intimidated by upper-class women and can't look them in the face. Among the servant class, however, he is known as a scamp, as his best friend George Hastings (Blake Magnusson) points out. Hastings is along on this trip to win Kate's cousin, Constance Neville (Bridget S. Dunne), who wants her inheritance from her aunt, Mrs. Hardcastle (Colleen Neary McClure), before they elope.

Tony Lumpkin (Tim Crofton) is the fly in everybody's ointment. Son to Mrs. Hardcastle, step-brother to Kate, and cousin betrothed to Constance, he prefers getting drunk with his mates and playing pranks. While at The Three Jolly Pigeons tavern, he runs into Marlow and Hastings, who are lost on their way to the Hardcastle house. Tony directs them instead to the "inn" up the road where they can stay the night. Of course, the "inn" is the Hardcastle home. Once Marlow and Hastings arrive and begin treating Mr. Hardcastle (Neil Faulconbridge) as an innkeeper, Tony's fabrications lead to hilarious misunderstandings.

Kate Hardcastle, being the canny wench she is, turns the farce to her advantage. If Marlow can't handle high-born women, she'll play the barmaid. Osbourne's native intelligence and beauty shine through in this role of the clever woman "stooping" to scoop up her man. With Dunne in perfect form as Constance, these two seem the very warmest of friends. As Tony's failed champion and Constance and Hastings's adversary, the deft McClure finds solid ground between enforcer and buffoon. Let's applaud her as costumer, too, and praise dressmaker Arta Anderson. Well done.

Lumpkin, Marlow and Hastings together have more time on stage than the ladies, and they make the most of it with different comedic styles. Crofton plays Lumpkin as a broadly bodacious troublemaker who loves to laugh at others but cracks himself up the most. Riley as Young Marlow is believable in both modes: fearful wooer of Kate Hardcastle, goatish pursuer of Kate as the maid. But the comic crown goes to Magnusson as Hastings. His physicality expresses all of the emotions assaulting him: his discomfort over Marlow's awkwardnesses, his ardor for Constance, his impatience to be off and to hell with her fortune. Best of all, he satirizes a high-born fop of the early 1700s while being likable and funny as hell.

This comedy of manners is likeable, too, with a fine ensemble cast who know what they're about. Director Joe Feldman takes full advantage of the entrances and exits afforded by the columns and curtains flanking the wide stage to aid the farce. Tim Neninger designed and edited the upstage video that sets the scenes, and local musician and composer Casey Mraz did the sound design. West End Productions has gathered a talented company.

Through March 12, 2017, VSA North Fourth Art Center, 4904 4th St. NW, (505) 410-8524,

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