The 19th Century comes to Garvin Theatre in ‘The Heiress’

The Channels Art Pages | STAFF REVIEW

CATALINA AVILA, Channels Staff

As soon as I walked into the Garvin theatre I stepped into a world of the nineteenth century.

Large windows illuminated an old rustic staircase in the middle of the stage and a big shining crystal lamp hung up above the majestic sofa. It was a world that absorbed me until the play was over.

Thursday, Oct. 16, was the second preview of “The Heiress,” a play inspired by the famous novel “Washington Square” written by Henry James. The play was presented by the Santa Barbara Theater Group and directed by recently retired theater faculty member at Ventura College, Judy Garey.

Garey’s repertoire includes  “Justice,” the timeless classical play, written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz. She captured the play’s psychological realism and did so with an incredibly talented cast.

Veteran equity actress, Avery Clyde, portrays Catherine Sloper, a shy young woman that is addicted to telling the truth. Catherine is the daughter of the wealthy Doctor August Sloper, played by Tom Hinshaw. Doctor Sloper is constantly disappointed and critical of Catherine for not being a “belle” and socially skilled like her mother, who died in childbirth. What is ironic is that a doctor, which lives for saving other people’s lives, succeeds poorly saving his own family.

Lavinia Penniman, played by well-known local actor Leslie Gangl Howe, is the widowed aunt that lives in the house together with Catherine and Doctor Sloper. Penniman is in a quest to find Catherine a nice man to marry. Gangl Howe brought the character some wonderful animated moments that served as a comic relief.

The play’s drama begins when Morris Townsend, portrayed charmingly by Josh Jenkins, captures Catherine’s heart much to Pennimans delight but to Doctor Slopers disapproval. Sloper is convinced that Mr. Townsend is only after Catherine’s fortune, after all she is the heiress.

I was astonished by Clyde’s portrayal of the iconic character. She delivered her lines with such honesty and belief that now I can’t imagine Clyde being anything else than awkward, honest and blunt, just like her character.

In the beginning of “The Heiress,” Clyde portrays Catherine as a bit of hesitant, dull and truthful person but at the end of act two Catherine’s transformation was clear, both vocally and physical.

The character was then portrayed as equally honest but darker and bitterer. This time the character’s honesty served more as a reflection of a painful past more than a comic relief as it did in act one when it gained several laughs from the public.

There were some hiccups during the play, small lines that were said wrong once or twice, but the level of talent on that stage made you forget about it.

A pleasant surprise was the crew dressed as servants, preparing the props for the next scene. The interludes between each scene was smooth and accompanied by some lovely classical piano music that added to the feel of an old and forgotten time. A time when gentleman wore large hats and people travelled by horse and carriage

“The Heiress” is a production I urge people to see and is money well spent. The play is three hours long divided into two acts. It is a play about people pretending to be something they are not and where abuse is the key word.

Abuse of trust, abuse of loyalty and abuse of fortune. Lies, romance, drama and a well written script, which has kept drawing people in since 1947, is what makes this play into a timeless classic.

Tickets are sold online for $24 for adults, and $19 per seniors and $15 for all students. Garey’s adaption of the classic play is available to see from Oct. 17 to Nov. 1 at City College’s Garvin Theatre.