People struggling financially always think money is the answer to everything, but Victoria Stewart’s “Rich Girl,” offers a different take on the issue.
Stewart’s story is a modern retelling of the Henry James’ 1881 novel “Washington Square,” which was developed into the stage and movie classic “The Heiress” (1949), starring Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift. “Rich Girl” has similarities to both the novel and the film.
“The film is more about a person who loses an elemental part of herself because of the way she is hurt by several people,” Stewart said. “But, I felt strongly that it’s really about somebody who is damaged, but survives. I think in James’ novel, she’s damaged irrevocably as well, but doesn’t do the revenge in the novel. She’s just a cold, sad person who may never love again. Living in the modern world offers way more options. My play is about choosing what you want to do and not letting people who might hurt you, change that.”
“Rich Girl” hits upon several contemporary subjects that present themselves daily on social media sites or the news.
“Eve (Meg Gibson) is a mother whose only personal friendship is with her assistant, and she pays her,” Stewart said. “She loves her daughter, Claudine, (Lauren Blumenfeld) and wants what’s best for her, but she wants her daughter to be more like her, and questions whether Claudine will marry Henry (JD Taylor), whom she suspects is only in this for the money. Eve has worked very hard to get where she is at. That’s one thing I find interesting in mothers and daughters or fathers and sons, that question: Will they grow up to be like their parents? That dilemma escalates back and forth during this play and becomes a wedge between mother and daughter, forcing issues that have been buried for some time, along with new ones with Henry.”
“Rich Girl” has played at several other theaters and Stewart still has ah-ha moments.
“The first act is very funny, so to hear audiences react is great,” Stewart said. “In the second act, things get very intense dramatically, so I listen for audience reactions there, too. What I really laughed at was during the first show, a co-production between New Jersey and Cleveland, some of the audience members got so engaged they started yelling at the actors and giving them directions like do this, don’t do that. It was like an old-fashioned melodrama; very funny and really satisfying for me.
“I have sympathy for all my characters and because we have such a strong cast, you put yourself in their shoes when you’re reading lines,” Stewart said. “I hope people walk out of the theater and have long conversations about who is right. That will make me very happy.”
Globe member James Vasquez directs “Rich Girl,” and has done extensive work at The Old Globe, including “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” since 2003, “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Jane Austen’s Emma — A Musical Romantic Comedy,” “Boeing-Boeing” and 2013 Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”