The Heiress soon reveals the distance between father and daughter, the wealthy Dr. Sloper and the shy Catherine in exchanges with his sisters, her two aunts.
In one of those lines the talented Joseph Miloni was born to deliver, his Sloper observes that babies “are delightful little creatures, too bad they don’t stay that way.” From that start until the end, Miloni makes playgoers hope he’ll long continue his much-awaited return to the stage.
His uttering of the name of Catherine’s fortune-hunting suitor is simply delicious as he shows the scoundrel the door with an acidly enunciated, “Mister Townsend.”
And those revealing early exchanges range from the daughter’s pleading, “I would do anything to please him,” to the father telling Aunt Lavinia, after wincing at the girl’s clumsiness, “I can’t believe it. Her mother was so graceful.”
When Aunt Elizabeth complains, “You expect too much” of her, Dr. Sloper says, “I expect everything.”
So the scene is set for conflict between father, daughter and her suitor, with Miloni strongly supported by Katlynn Yost as Catherine. Will Muller deals ably with the disadvantage of playing a scheming slacker bound to see Sloper’s contempt for him shared by the audience.
The play, drawn from the Henry James’ novel, “Washington Square,” shows the Brigit St. Brigit Theatre and director Cathy M.W. Kurz at their best in presenting a classic. The setting, the arched, wood-beamed ceiling of the First Congregational Church Memorial Hall, and costumes designed by Matthew Lott, draw viewers deeply into New York society in the 1850s.
Playwrights Ruth and Augustus Getz give their story its lighter moments with Catherine’s inability to make social small talk. She tells Morris Townsend, “I’m not very good at the kind of conversation,” and we believe her after she replies to his pleasure that she came back to the house by saying, “I’d have to come back. I live here.”
When Catherine worries that her father will treat Townsend as “a mercenary,” Dr. Sloper will only promise, “I will be as fair and honest with him, as he is with you.”
The suitor proposes, the daughter accepts and the father takes her to Europe for six months, hoping she’ll get over him. The suitor, an accomplished idler, hangs around the Sloper mansion with Aunt Lavinia, a delightful Marybeth Adams, smoking the doctor’s cigars and drinking his brandy.
On her return, they plan to elope, but he bails when hearing that Sloper is cutting Catherine out of his will.
Two years later, we meet an evolved Catherine, matured by new insight into both her father and the suitor. It may not be a traditional “all’s well that ends well,” but it satisfies the desire to root for a better fate for Catherine than was forecast at the beginning.
The performance by Yost, as the focal character most changed by the story’s developments, is exceptional, especially considering the company she kept with Miloni and Adams. Janet Macklin as Aunt Elizabeth, Sydney Readman as her daughter Marian and Laura Macklin-Linder as Maria, the Slopers’ servant maintained the performance level and Brandy Howell was convincing as the suitor’s sister, loyal to her brother but unable to avoid revealing his faults to Dr. Sloper..
The Heiress runs through Nov. 17, playing 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, at First Congregational Church, 36th and Harney, by the Brigit St. Brigit Theatre. Tickets are $25, $20 for seniors, military and students. Call 402.502.4910 for reservations.