The Heiress

This is how things were different 150 years ago, and how they’re still the same.

By Andrew Andrews

Molly Feibel and Joshuah Patriarco star in CenterStage Productions’ The Heiress by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, directed by Emily DePew at The CENTER for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck. Photos by Rachel Karashay.

In the mid-1800s, it seems the best a young woman in New York City could hope for was to leverage her charm, beauty and family’s standing to attract the affection of a good husband.

Catherine Sloper has two strikes against her, thanks to her crippling social anxiety and plain appearance.

When fortune hunter Morris Townsend claims to have fallen in love with Catherine at first sight, the young woman is all-too-willing to believe him, but her widowed father threatens to disinherit her if she elopes with the self-admitted ex-philanderer.

Based on Henry James’s novel Washington Square, this 1947 play ran for nearly a year on Broadway, was revived there a handful of times, and now makes a brief appearance in Rhinebeck.

Cora Colwell (not shown) joins Brian Cordella, David Foster, Michelle Turner, Regina Perrone, Feibel, Elaine Young, Patriarco and Elizabeth Crew in the cast, with costume design by Kim-Denise Barnett.

To say that I’m impressed with The CENTER for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck would be an understatement.

Every two weeks they deliver a pleasing new live theatre experience at a reasonable price, with a nice-sized cast, gorgeous costumes and often an elaborate set.

The Heiress is a case in point:

The antiquated story can be enjoyed despite its obsolescence, and the naïveté of a unpopular person reacting to sudden and unexpected sweet-talk from an admired suitor is as timeless as tropes may be. This grants the audience the pleasant feeling of superiority that comes from being a disconnected observer, and while the ending is somewhat predictable, you’ll leave the show feeling equally pleased with the outcome.

The cast of this production showed a few signs of opening-night jitters at our performance, but generally did a fine job with their roles and recovered effortlessly from minor stumbles.

I often think you can judge a presentation by comparing how long it lasts to how long it feels, and while The Heiress is a bit longer than we expected, the time passed by at just the right pace.

In my book, that makes attending this show an evening well-spent.


Andrew Andrews attended The Heiress at The Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck on Friday, March 11, 2022 @ 8:00pm to write this review.