Sammi Elefant ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
When accident-prone Claudine meets theatre director Henry, she falls in love instantaneously. But her mother, Eve, a celebrity financial-guru, is skeptical of the boy from the moment she hears of their budding relationship. Is Henry in it for the money? Or is he really everything her daughter deserves? These are the consistent questions that seep through Victoria Stewart’s play Rich Girl, now in its New England debut at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston.
Rich Girl is a modern day adaptation of the timeless novel, play, and film The Heiress. This modernization centers on relationships, love, and money. However, the original Heiress is not a story that translates well into contemporary times because the original story is very dated. The lifestyle Catherine (Claudine in the new production) has is protected until her father dies and she acquires her inheritance, which gives her independence. The movie is not about revenge or about forgiving, it’s about loss of innocence and a metamorphosis in Catherine, leaving the audience with a story about how some people can destroy others — the devastation of the human soul.
In Stewart’s adaption, this story is much less resonant because it becomes a story about greed. It was hard to feel sorry for the new character Claudine because she has options. There are no circumstances in her life that are getting in the way or holding her back from leaving her mother, except perhaps after an event in Act II. It isn’t quite as stifling as in the 1949 version, when Catherine had nothing else to do besides become a man’s wife.
The show ends on a far less satisfactory and ominous note than the original, and there’s little that the production team can do to alleviate this empty spot that the show creates. Whereas the original Catherine is a victim of time and circumstance, the new Claudine is co-dependent both emotionally and financially. It’s hard to give any kind of compassion to the modernized heroine who had nothing but a pot of gold holding her back from breaking free of her mother’s purse string.
Emerson professor Courtney O’Connor directed the show. The blocking played to all three sides of the arena and there were quaint picturesque moments that set up the delivery of the script’s many punch lines. It was both clean and simple, allowing the set to function well for the actors.
The standout character of the show was Maggie (Celeste Olivia), Eve’s personal assistant. She had the most well written part and Ms. Olivia’s sass had the audience laughing as she drank her way through the show. Maggie is a great compliment to Eve (Amelia Broome) and really is the bond that connects the rest of the characters in the show to one another. Ms. Broome, also an Emerson professor, gave life to Eve by channeling her inner Suze Orman for her televised segments of the show. Eve might have been the only character who learned a lesson in the show, and Ms. Broome transformed from that character that she portrays for her audience to the manipulative, yet caring mother of Claudine: “You’re the only good thing that came out of my marriage.” Joe Short was a very attractive Henry, both convincing and shady. Finally, Sasha Castroverde (Claudine), as the only non-equity actor, stood her ground even as the watered-down version of the original story’s Catherine – even with her new purple hair.
Rich Girl will run March 28th through April 26th and the Lyric Stage Company of Boston.