Being raised by a single father has always been challenging. Though it may seem to make things easier, often being wealthy simply adds complications. Add to that the feeling that your father blames you for the death of your mother, whom he practically worships, even decades later, and it can cause some pretty severe self-esteem issues. This is the predicament in which Catherine Sloper finds herself. Being raised by her father, an affluent doctor in mid-nineteenth-century New York, she has the added pressure of being expected not only to marry but to marry well. The big problem is Catherine has been so beaten down by her ostensibly protective father, she is too backward for any man to be interested. Until Morris Townsend comes onto the scene, that is. Morris is suave and dapper and, against all odds, seems to be crazy about Catherine. Unfortunately, Morris has lived a life of dissipation and is therefore essentially penniless, causing her father to suspect he’s only interested in Catherine’s money. 

This is the situation in The Heiress, a play by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, based on a novel by Henry James, which is being produced by the Mid-Ohio Valley Players under the direction of Jena Lane Blair. Starring Vanesa Rake as Catherine; Mack McHale as her father, Dr. Austin Sloper; and Sean Shoop as Morris Townsend, this play is quite well done. The actors are up to the emotional complexity of the material for sure. The tension between Shoop’s Morris and McHale’s Sloper feels real, as does the tortured chemistry between Rake’s Catherine and Morris. The play is definitely carried by Rake, who turns in a powerful performance as a young woman struggling to believe she is worthy of love from anyone, let alone this handsome, magnetic man who at least seems to be crazy about her.

Though McHale, Shoop, and Rake have the bulk of the lines, the supporting cast is stellar as well. Even Kathy Biery and Nathaniel Maciag, who play the smallest of parts, are satisfying to watch.

Beyond the acting, the technical aspects of the show are strong too. For instance, the set is quite well done. Everything, from the color of the walls to the fireplace to the period-appropriate furniture is spot on. The costumes are amazing. Lighting, sound, special effects, even the musical bumpers between scenes, are all clearly well thought out. There really is no weak aspect to this show.

The curtain goes up on Friday, March 4 at 8:00pm, with subsequent evening performances taking place on March 5, 11, and 12. There will be one matinee on March 13 at 2:30pm. You can purchase tickets by going to their website, or by calling the box office at 740-374-9434. If you go to the website, check out the specials available from various local restaurants that will allow you to make a whole evening of it. Get your tickets soon—you’ll be glad you did!