by James Lex
The excitement in the room was nearly palpable as the large crowd in the Albany Municipal Auditorium began to take their seats for Valdosta State University’s She Stoops to Conquer, Oliver Goldsmith’s famous Restoration Comedy. It seems to me that the moment before the show begins can often be the most thrilling part. And unfortunately, it was.
The production started off with a cute dance number, but I found myself worrying that if one of the actors bumped into the delicate set that it could all possibly fall apart into a hundred pieces of plywood and I wondered how many crew members would it take to sweep it all up. The simplicity of the design worked because it highlighted the strong lighting choices. The cyc was captivating at the top of the second act with the addition of stars and the subtle transitions indicating the passing of time was a nice touch.
The humor used in this production was similar to the set: cheap. The ad-libbing was sometimes funny, yes, but when the actors said “yeah” or even “yaaas,” it brought the room back to the reality that the performers were mere amateur college students. However, there were many successful performances. The dynamic portrayal of Charles Marlow served the text well with his ability to create clear shifts such as when he spotted Kate, the love-interest, for the first time. And the frisky portrayal of Kate was delightfully visible, but hard to hear from the fourth row. The ensemble competed for the most laughs and the side bits served to distract from what was actually important in the scene.
The show was followed by a few announcements and She Stoops to Conquer quickly deflated. The once lively mass of theatre goers, now exhausted, exited the theatre. The show left me with only one thought: Is it ever appropriate to use modern humor in a period piece? I have yet to be convinced.