Fine set, cast live on 'Quality Street'WORTHINGTON — Nineteenth century romance is in the air at Okoboji Summer Theatre while James Barrie’s “Quality Street” fills the stage.
By: Katherine Hedeen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Nineteenth century romance is in the air at Okoboji Summer Theatre while James Barrie’s “Quality Street” fills the stage.
No finer set has been designed for OST than this week’s handsome drawing room. As the curtains parted for “first nighters” to take a look, “ohs” and “ahs” could be heard from the audience. Lovely ladies in their gowns of the early 1800s matched the room in elegance.
By today’s standards, “Quality Street” impresses one as a “talky” comedy-drama, especially during the first quite brief act. This play was written in four acts, a format popular in years past. However, at OST Director Beth Leonard keeps the show moving with four relatively short scenes and just one intermission, winding up under two hours.
The play in 1905 starred the legendary Maude Adams in its New York opening with an even more successful run following in London. Later, about 1939, Hollywood produced a movie with Katharine Hepburn and Franchot Tone. Playwright Barrie from Scotland is best known for his ever-popular book and play “Peter Pan” and for his sentimental writings, which reflect strong emotions and a keen sense of humor.
“Quality Street” tells about two unmarried sisters who live together at their large, comfortable home on Quality Street in an English village. Miss Phoebe, the younger sister, is awaiting a marriage proposal, and the two ladies are already making happy plans. Miss Susan, the older, offers her own dress, which she has preserved after her wedding was cancelled.
Other residents of Quality Street, who live for gossip and wait for either good or bad news, watch the windows and listen at the door for signs of activity from within. But when Mr. Brown, Phoebe’s suitor, calls at the house, he announces that he’s joining the military to fight in the Napoleonic Wars.
Ten years pass while the sisters resign themselves to spinsterhood and open a school for “genteel children.” Captain Brown returns from war, having lost an arm or a hand in battle, but he’s still impressive in his traditional red British uniform.
Unfortunately he finds Miss Phoebe already old and tired at age 30. As Phoebe laments to her sister, “Ten years ago I went to my room and bed a pretty girl and woke up with this cap on my head. Where is my youth? Oh, where are my pretty curls?”
Phoebe, grown weary from those years of patient waiting, creates a daring plan to masquerade as her fictional niece, Miss Livvy, removing her cap to show her curls and behaving in a thoroughly enchanting, flirtatious fashion.
Livvy charms Captain Brown, along with other younger officers who claim dances at the balls and show interest in marriage. Phoebe’s impersonation of a coquettish Livvy gives opportunity to take revenge on Captain Brown. When he asks for her hand, she tells him he’s too old for her. However, Miss Livvy, once created, is hard to dispose of, and the solving of that dilemma comprises the rest of this romantic tale.
The two leading ladies, Emily Schackelford and Kyra Koelling, delight as the sisters, easily bridging the transition from younger to older. Shackelford’s portrayal of her niece is exactly right. Because of our close-to-the-front seats, we could catch every appropriate expression.
Kyle Groff makes a believable British officer and just happens to bear a strong resemblance in his slender build and facial features to Franchot Tone of the Hollywood version. Ann Hagedorn plays a comic house maid. Each member of the large cast serves the production well.
“Quality Street” continues through Sunday to be followed by a farce “Enter Laughing.” Variety is good, and the Okoboji theater company does so well providing that.