Theater 2020’s Lady Susan Works Her Wiles

This afternoon your correspondent braved blustery winds, and even a brief snow flurry as he walked past St. Ann’s, to attend the reading of Lady Susan or the Captive Heart, a Jane Austen Bodice Ripper, a work-in-progress by Lynn Marie Macy which Theater 2020 plans to present in its final version this fall. The comedy is based on an early Jane Austen novel, and set in the 1790s. As interpreted my Ms. Macy, the story, while true to its time, becomes an almost Neil Simon-like broad romantic farce, with unexpected encounters leading to characters hiding behind curtains, a sofa, a tea cart (from which the hidden lover keeps filching cakes while his rival flirts with his beloved), and a dressmaker’s changing screen behind which a spurned wife and her equally spurned sister-in-law plot the vengeance that leads to the final, climactic scene.

Although this was just a reading, with no stage action, the cast gave the lines so well that my attention never wandered. Annalisa Loeffler was convincingly vulpine as the scheming Lady Susan, while Sheila Joon was thoroughly catty as Mary Manwaring, the scorned wife of Lady Susan’s lover. Christopher Michael Todd, as William Manwaring, the philanderer, and Nat Cassidy, as Sir James Martin, to whom Lady Susan plans to marry off her daughter, ably presented two aspects of simpering male English aristocracy. Greg Horton excelled in two roles, as Lady Susan’s doting brother-in-law and as the decrepit, though resilient, octogenarian husband of her friend and confidant. Paula Hoza read four parts that demanded four different ways of speaking: as a German governess, a London schoolmistress, a cockney maid, and a French dressmaker, and did well at all four.

The photo shows the cast. From the far side of the stage: Paula Hoza (Miss Becker, Miss Summers, Polly, and Madame Camille), Renee Claire Bergeron (Alicia Johnson), Greg Horton (Mr. Johnson, Charles Vernon), Lisa Riegel (Catherine Vernon), Devin Delliquanti (Reginald DeCourcy), Annalisa Loeffler (Lady Susan Vernon), Christopher Michael Todd (William Manwaring), Sheila Joon (Mary Manwaring), Megan Loomis (Maria Manwaring, Wilson), Nat Cassidy (Sir James Martin), and Tatiana Gomberg (Frederica Vernon, Millie).

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  • Livingston

    I was there too and thoroughly enjoyed the reading. Actors were quite good, esp. with this being the first read through (accents were spot on). A little long, but that’s to be expected at this stage in the work. Looking forward to seeing how it evolves for the Fall performance.