The Heiress

While Henry James' efforts as a playwright never matched his success as a fiction writer, Ruth and Autgustus Goetz's The Heiress, suggested by his novel Washington Square, clocks in with 4 Oscars and 6 Tonys (including the revival).

Photo of Norah Long (Catherine) and Wolf J. Sherrill (Morris)
Norah Long as Catherine
and Wolf J. Sherrill as Morris
Photo: P. Switzer
The current production of the stage play at the Arvada Center illustrates why audiences and critics have found this such a compelling drama. Like a Merchant-Ivory film or a Jane Austen cinematic adaptation, the action in James' work is largely internal, relying on subtle and often unexpected changes in character to create drama in what otherwise passes as sedate lives.

A contemporary of Freud, James populates his fictional worlds with powerful psychological forces. In The Heiress, Catherine Sloper is a shy young woman who has been emotionally abused by her domineering father, a wealthy MD. When a penniless suitor steals her heart, her father immediately takes him for a gold-digger, and makes every effort to drive him away, despite Catherine's protestations.

Photo of Norah Long (Catherine)
Norah Long as Catherine
Photo: P. Switzer
Like a Greek tragedy in which the course of events seem destined from the start, the story lulls us into making assumptions; unlike the classics, however, James turns our expectations inside out.

Fine-tuned to Catherine's every flutter and throb, Norah Long unveils the complexities of the young woman's heart one detail at a time, as if revealing a glorious sunset; her shadings are so subtly drawn we marvel at the incremental tranformation.

Photo of William Denis (Dr. Sloper) and Wolf J. Sherrill (Morris)
William Denis as Dr. Sloper
and Wolf J. Sherrill as Morris
Photo: P. Switzer
Both impervious to the pain he inflicts upon his sensitive daughter and incredulous at her response, William Denis' Dr. Austin Sloper is the archetypal image of late-nineteenth century male hubris. His nemesis, Morris Townsend, one of the slickest liars since the serpent in Eden, is played with effortless prevarication by Wolf J. Sherrill.

A strong ensemble, including Elgin Kelley, Beth Flynn, Billie McBride, Leslie O'Carroll, Gabriella Cavallero, and Leigh Selting round out this top-notch production.

The Arvada Center's production of The Heiress runs through February 26th. 720-898-7200 or

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