‘Heiress’ relates with underdog story
Catherine Sloper (Lisa Schmela) is romanced by Morris Townsend (Sean Ogren) in "The Heiress" at Wheaton Drama. | Photo by Ken Beach.
Through Sept. 30
Wheaton Drama Playhouse 111, 111 N. Hale St., Wheaton
(630) 260-1820; wheatondrama.org
Although written in 1947, “The Heiress,” which is on stage through Sept. 30 at Wheaton Drama Playhouse, is still relevant in today’s world, according to Marge Uhlarik-Boller, the play’s director.
“In a day when the details of so many celebrity romances and marriages are flashed across our television and computer screens, ‘The Heiress’ is a great reminder of how people didn’t always marry for love, or even notoriety,” Uhlarik-Boller said.
“The Heiress” was written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, which they adapted from the Henry James’ novel, Washington Square. Set in New York City in the 1850s, the story centers on shy and plain Catherine Sloper. Catherine was raised by a cold, difficult physician father who finds her lacking in every aspect. When a young man finds his way into Catherine’s heart, her successful father is sure he is a fortune hunter. Catherine’s search for herself and her place in society, as well as her relationship with both of these men, is at the heart of “The Heiress.”
“The characters in ‘The Heiress’ are required by convention to follow the dictates of society,” Uhlarik-Boller said. “In the case of the heroine in the play, Catherine, those dictates give her little power. But she finds a way to rise above this and become her own powerful woman.
“This is a remarkable play about a surprisingly emancipated woman,” Uhlarik-Boller continued. “The conflicts within her are all about the workings of the human heart: how we yearn for and seek love, how we delude ourselves in times of conflict, how disappointment in life leads to betrayal of the greatest kind.”
Uhlarik-Boller also believes audience members will identify with characters in the play on another level.
“Plays like this are so very entertaining because they are about that aspect of life everyone can relate to: what it’s like to be the underdog,” she said. “This story is about a woman who is straddled from birth with a disappointed father, an absent mother and a lover whose motives are suspect. She rises above this all at the end and we feel triumph and even a bit of revenge.”