Thursday, April 03, 2014

New England Premiere of "Rich Girl" by Victoria Stewart at The Lyric Stage Company of Boston - A Finely Tuned Quartet of Actors

Amelia Broome as Eve
Sasha Castroverde as Claudine
Joe Short as Henry
Celeste Oliva as Maggie
Photo by Mark S. Howard

Before watching last evening's performance of "Rich Girl" at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, I had not been familiar with the playwright, Victoria Stewart.  So, as I awaited the pre-play greeting by Producing Artistic Director, Spiro Veloudos, I read the bios for the cast and creative team.  I did not need to go any further than learning that she was a graduate of the Playwrights' Workshop at the University of Iowa to know that I was in good hands.  Iowa is famous for producing a short list of a few outstanding commodities: winter blizzards (I have been snowbound there), corn, Field of Dreams and writers extraordinaire.  The plethora of writers whose talents have been fertilized and cultivated at the University of Iowa could fill a silo.

Ms. Stewart has taken the Henry James novel, "Washington Square," and added some new twists that go beyond the 1947 dramatization entitled "The Heiress."  This 21st century rich girl has more choices available to her than the protagonist from these earlier versions of the story.  Claudine is being groomed by her mother, Eve, to run the family foundation.  Eve is a self-made woman - a former waitress who now gives "tips" as the anchor of a CNBC show on money management for women.  She tries very hard to protect her fragile and insecure daughter from forces that might seek to take advantage of her weaknesses and naivete - including Henry.  He is a struggling director of a fringe theater company that is looking for financial backing.  He comes to Claudine to apply for a foundation grant.  They had been classmates together at Phillips Andover,  Being groomed by her mother to learn to say "No" she turns down his request for money, but grants him a date.  He falls in love with her - or does he?  Thereby hangs the tale.

Under the able direction of Courtney O'Connor, the four actors pictured above function as a string quartet who have been playing together for years.  They are pitch perfect in their individual performances and in their interplay with one another.  As Eve, the protean talents of Amelia Broome are in full bloom.  Her persona is as cold as the cash she manages and as calculating as her appraisal of the latest Bloomberg printouts.  Her idea of a relationship involves "financial intimacy."  Sasha Castroverde presents a Claudine who transforms from an awkward geek with plum colored hair and slumped shoulders into a self-reliant echo of her mother.  Ms. Castorverde is masterful in playing the full range of her viola.  Playing "second fiddle" in this quarter is Maggie, Eve's personal assistant.  Celeste Oliva is stunning in her level of energy and vibrancy.  Buffering the emotional deadness that exists between Eve and Claudine, Maggie struggles to add some spark of humanity to the household, a spacious apartment that is all nouveau riche art and Scandinavian modern furniture, but is hardly a home.  She throws in enough vibrato and pizzicato to provide spice to what might otherwise have been a less vibrant scherzo.  Adding the bass notes as the cello in this quartet is Joe Short in the role of Henry.  This handsome and insouciant struggling artist has both Claudine and Maggie swooning, and has Eve playing protective mother tigress.  Surely Henry is too good and idealistic to be the gold digger that Eve fears he may be - or is he?

Assisting the cast in telling this story are the other members of the creative team.  Brynna Bloomfield's set is sumptuous.  Mallory Frers' costumes help to define each character.  Chris Bocchiaro's lighting and Brendan F. Doyle's sound design enhance the atmosphere created by the playwright and actors.

I encourage you to come and experience the work of this playwright who hails from Beverly Farms, Massachusetts.  I guarantee you will be enriched by the experience.  The play will run through April 26 at The Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street.



Rich Girl
by Victoria Stewart
Directed by Courtney O'Connor


Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, including one intermission.
Box Office: 617-585-5678 |

A rich girl, her richer mother, and a starving artist boyfriend — what could possibly go wrong? When sheltered Claudine meets starving artist Henry, she falls head over heels. But her mother, a tough-talking celebrity financial guru, has her doubts: Is Henry everything her daughter deserves or is he only after her money? Rich Girl, a modern day take on the classic play and film The Heiress, is a clever new comedy about women, men, mothers, and money – but not necessarily in that order

Lyric Stage Website

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful, thoughtful review. I love the string quartet analogy. Thanks.