“The Heiress,” a refreshing, authentic drama about love, loss and control, explores human relationships in a very realistic way. Set in 1850, “The Heiress,” written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz and adapted from Henry James novella “Washington Square,” tells the story of Catherine Sloper (Christina Reynolds), a young woman searching for love and freedom.

Paul Wong
Quinn Strassel, Daniel Kahn and Christina Reynolds star in “The Heiress.”<br><br>Courtesy of University Productions

Due to the restrictive conditions of the time, Catherine is faced with the difficulty of an overprotective father, Dr. Austin Sloper (Daniel Kahn). Dr. Sloper, a well-to-do New York physician, distrusts the motives of Morris Townsend (Quinn Strassel), Catherine”s new suitor. Soon torn between love of her father and Morris, Catherine must decide what to do.

Directed by Phillip Kerr, “The Heiress” explores the complexity of human conflict and the struggle to follow one”s heart. Strassel said, “I think that students will enjoy this show because it deals with young love and the complicated relationship of a father and child.”

A well-written script lends to audience involvement and satisfaction. Maggie Sargent, who plays Catherine”s aunt, said, “It”s a really tightly-written play. Every word is meaningful and the multi-dimensional plot proposes many thematic questions. The characters have many layers, some of which even they are not aware of.”

Much of the cast”s progress can be due to Kerr”s directing. Strassel said, “Philip Kerr is an actor”s dream because he gives the actor the opportunity to make discoveries about the character on his own. He has a clear vision of what he wants, but he lets the actor make the character his own.”

Sargent adds, “He encourages the actors to come to an understanding of what their characters are concealing from themselves and others, and why they continue to do so.”

Theatre Department Professor Emeritus Zelma Weisfeld joins the production as the costume designer, giving expert advice on 1800s period costumes and trends. Her assistance has helped to create a strikingly realistic portrayal of upper class New York. The audience will also be delighted by the array of authentic furniture and ornaments on stage.

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