The Heiress properly represents old New York

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The latest production at the South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa is a tale of love, tragedy, and loss. “The Heiress,” written by Ruth Goetz and Augustus Goetz, directed by Martin Benson, and set in 1850s New York in Washington Square Park, has a stellar cast.

The play is adapted from a Henry James novel, “Washington Square.” Catherine, played by Kirsten Potter, is the daughter of Dr. Austin Sloper (Tony Amendola). Dr. Sloper is a clever man, much respected among New York’s elite.

At home, he remains a huge figure, but often in different ways than in his public life. He is a widower in love with his work instead of his daughter.

Catherine is a plain woman, but not ugly. Her shy personality failed to earn the respect of her father.

Sloper hosts a dinner party that introduces Morris Townsend, a young man with great ambition, as clever and witty in his own way as Sloper himself. Morris instantly falls in love with Catherine, or so it would seem.

Sloper persuades Catherine to think otherwise, telling her, his own daughter, that nobody could love someone so dull and dumb, who lacked any trace of her mother’s beauty.

Her Aunt Lavinia (Lynn Milgrim), manages to convince Catherine that Morris’s love for her is true. However, a hiatus separates Catherine and Morris at Sloper’s request.

Morris and Aunt Lavinia spend time together while Catherine and her father are away. As they return everything goes wrong as the classic tale of love and betrayal unfolds.

The 1850s are well represented in the play. The set was designed by a team headed by Thomas Buderwitz.

Maggie Morgan provided costumes with a very authentic look. Even the facial hair was well represented for the period. The play was a big hit.

The play runs through November 16 at the South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa. Tickets run from $35 to $64 and can be purchases at the box office or by calling (714) 708-5560.