Jessica Chastain, Dan Stevens, David Strathairn in "The Heiress" on Broadway
Wherever there is money, there are gigolos and gold diggers sniffing out vulnerable prey, ready to mesmerize wealthy mates to dispel with prenups. Such consummate actors live by their wits, charm and wiles, and when their mark is particularly insecure, inferior and believes themselves unattractive/unworthy, these predators are as assiduous as a cabal of bankers with a list of potential investors.
Such is the initial substance of the play The Heiress, which opens on November 1st and stars Jessica Chastain (Oscar nominee, The Help) Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey's Matthew Crawley) and David Strathairn (Edward R. Murrow, Good Night and Good Luck) with a powerful supporting performance by Judith Ivey. This is the second revival of a 1949 play by Ruth and Augustus Goetz (first revival was in 1995 at Lincoln Center with Cherry Jones). The Goetz's also wrote the screenplay to the award winning 1949 film of the same title (with Olivia de Haviland and Montgomery Clift). The Heiress is based on Henry James' novel Washington Square, which has non fiction underpinnings.
Amidst this timeless issue of "love" predation which receives nuanced meaning in our new Gilded Age of billionaires and Queens of Versailles, there is also the twisted dynamic of a father-daughter relationship tainted by guilt, manipulation and control. At the heart of this intricate network of human interplay are the overriding questions that pierce the infinite skein of familial, romantic and self- love for the characters- Catherine Sloper (Chastain) Dr. Austin Sloper (Strathairn) and Morris Townsend (Stevens). Can a daughter receive a father's disciplined love if it only fulfills duty and obligation without a commensurate amount of warmth, tenderness and affection? Are a lifetime of spousal blandishments and unctuousness sufficient love for a woman's lonely soul, even though such trivialities may erode her pride and self-sufficiency? To save one's integrity can one live one's life with the loneliness of truth? Or would it be better to live in denial with companionship and lies? Can a woman achieve autonomy and self-satisfaction without the relationship of a man whose need for her love and her money may eventually bloom into happiness, at the expense of her identity and self-hood?Continued on the next page