She Stoops to Conquer is great outdoor theatre in the Toronto east end, a summer must
She Stoops to Conquer, currently being presented by Guild Festival Theatre, embodies many of the things I love about summer in Toronto. While others may head to the cottage, I am happiest travelling around the city to watch theatre outside. Both the setting, Guild Park in Scarborough, and the company were new to me. And I was happy I got the chance to expand my theatrical and geographic horizons.
She Stoops to Conquer, by Oliver Goldsmith, was written in the 1770’s. The play is a comedy of manners and mistaken identity. Charles Marlow, a rich Londoner, is on his way to stay at the estate of Mr. Dick Hardcastle with hopes of meeting and marrying his daughter Kate. Through a practical joke by Kate’s step brother, Tony Lumpkin, Marlow mistakes the Hardcastle home for an inn. Marlow is painfully shy and intimidated by upper class women, but he becomes a rogue among the lower classes. Much hilarity ensues as Kate pretends to be the bar maid in order to woo her suitor.
Although the play has a somewhat complicated plot, with many twists and turns as the characters lie to and trick each other, I found it easy to follow and surprisingly modern. It was also very funny with some excellent performances. Subhash Santosh, as Tony Lumpkin, was the stand out of the night. He portrayed Lumpkin as a loveable goofball who doesn’t take anything seriously. No one, even his own mother, is safe from his schemes and jokes. But he truly means well. He just wants to drink, be merry, and pursue his own interests in horses and women.
My favourite scene was when Marlow, played by Alexander Oliver, first meets Kate Hardcastle (Laura Meadows). He is unable to speak with fear in her presence. Oliver played the scene with great physical comedy that had the audience in stitches. I thought he might actually faint from nervousness.
Brian Weber, as Dick Hardcastle, also deserves special mention. He was blustering with indignation yet masterfully gracious when Marlow mistakes him for an innkeeper. His relationship with Kate was warm and respectful. Though he prefers “old things” and doesn’t understand her interest in the latest fashions, he values her opinions and wants her to be happy.
My one complaint was the use of music throughout the play. There were brief snippets of harpsichord or strings that, I think, were supposed to serve as segues between scenes. They often started before the dialogue had stopped and then stopped abruptly in mid (musical) phrase, and I found the overall effect jarring.
The play is performed at the Greek theatre in the park, a marble structure saved from the old Bank of Toronto at the corner of Bay and King Streets in 1966. It’s a beautiful location, especially as the sun set and the lights came on. In fact, I wish I had arrived a little earlier to have had time to wander and explore the park more.
A tip – bring insect repellent! The mosquitos were out in force the night I attended. Also, it was quite dark by the end of the show. The paths back to the parking lot are uneven and not lighted, so be careful as you leave. But I’d definitely recommend making the trip out to Guild Park for She Stoops to Conquer. It’s yet another example of the many great summer theatre opportunities Toronto has to offer.
- She Stoops to Conquer is play at Guild Park (201 Guildwood Parkway) until August 13, 2017.
- Shows run Wednesday through Sunday at 7:30pm with matinees on Wednesdays at 2pm.
- Tickets are $25/$20 for students, seniors, and arts workers and can be purchased online or by calling 1-800-838-3006.
Photo of Laura Meadows by Barry Scheffer