The Heiress Bears Its Riches at The Pasadena Playhouse

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Richard Chamberlain stars as “Dr. Sloper” in “The Heiress” at The Pasadena Playhouse.

The storyline of The Heiress has fascinated and allured the stage, screen, and literary world for over 130 years. Inspired by the Henry James novel, Washington Square, Ruth and Augustus Goetz dramatized the tale of a plain young woman who has long suffered under the disgruntled eye of her father in 1947, which played on Broadway for nearly a year, garnering two Tony Award nominations (winning one for Best Costume Design).

Two years later, Hollywood came calling with William Wyler’s Oscar-winning film adaptation starring Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift. Since then, there have been three Broadway revivals of the play, the last being in 1995 which launched Cherry Jones’ career as the shy and demure Catherine Sloper. And this fall, yet another Broadway revival is slated to hit the boards with Jessica Chastain (The Help, The Tree of Life) in the title role.

From l, Heather Tom, Julia Duffy, and Richard Chamberlain star in “The Heiress” at The Pasadena Playhouse.

So what is it about The Heiress that has enthralled and attracted so many to its timeless tale of love, betrayal, and deception? Director Dámaso Rodriguez says, “Audiences love this play because the title character of Catherine is so compelling — we immediately feel for this shy young woman, and hope to the very end she’ll find love and happiness despite the manipulative forces of her well-meaning father and the expectations of 19th century high society.

“While the Goetz’s play is a brilliant piece of dramatic construction, the cast and I have delved deeply into the novel, Henry James’ Washington Square, from which the basic story and majority of the play’s dialogue is based. Our focus is on capturing the subtle ironies James is known for, and delving into the source material has given the cast and design team added insight into the world of the play and the surprising psychological complexities of the characters.

“I’m thrilled with our cast — Heather Tom is going to knock people out as Catherine, Julia Duffy (who I have worked with now three times) is born into her funny and moving role as Catherine’s aunt and eventual confidante, and Richard Chamberlain is extraordinary in a performance that should not be missed. I think he’s one of our greatest stage actors.”

Playhouse Artistic Director Sheldon Epps adds, “Having a young and talented director like Dámaso on this project was key to our decision to add The Heiress to our season. I have seen him grow over the years into what I feel is one of our local theater community’s most talented directors. Our hope is that bringing this production to The Playhouse stage will introduce this beautifully written play to a whole new generation of theatergoers.”

The Heiress begins performances at The Pasadena Playhouse April 24 – May 20, 2012. For tickets and information, visit www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org or call (626) 356-7529.

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