Take Henry James’ short novel “Washington Square,” adapt it for the Lifetime (“Television For Women) network, and you’d have something like Victoria Stewart’s play Rich Girl, now at the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre under the direction of James Vasquez. Well, at least the first act of the play, which has its teleplay way with the vagaries of the power-woman mother/wallflower daughter relationship and the timeworn question of love vs. money. The second act of Rich Girl, a retelling of James’ story about a homely heiress with a tyrannical parent (in the novel, it’s a father), ramps up the drama and becomes much more absorbing.
The four-person cast is appropriately dominated by Meg Gibson in the role of a Suze Orman type convinced her daughter Claudine (Lauren Blumenfeld) is being courted for her money by a free-spirited but broke theater artist (JD Taylor). Credit the charismatic Gibson for the comic energy of Act 1 and the poignancy of Act 2. If you’ve read James’ novella or seen the stage/screen adaptation, The Heiress, you’ll know where Rich Girl is headed. How you feel when it gets there may depend on your affinity for Claudine, who like her mom can really get on your nerves.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.