Jacob Scott
Alex Ungerman is Morris Townsend, and Jaclyn Hales is the heiress Catherine Sloper.
THE HEIRESS; Black Box Theater, Gunther Trades Building, UVSC Orem campus; through Oct. 6; , 863-8797; running time: 2 hours, one intermission.

OREM — "The Heiress" is a hard play to review.

It's a different sort of story that is enjoyable partly because it's not familiar but it's also slow paced and never really engages the audience.

The costumes are nice and the acting is relatively strong.

Especially the leading actress, Jaclyn Hales, as the painfully shy Catherine Sloper.

She's acutely aware that her father finds her socially clumsy and awkward yet she manages to blurt out a decent phrase or two along the way. She's eager to believe someone can love her even though it demands a suspension of reality. And she gains strength visibly after the death of her father.

Others in the cast do well but Jake Suazo is perhaps miscast as the hard-hearted and insensitive father. He's too nice to fully come across as a cold man, but he's funny several times.

Alex Ungerman tries hard to be the playboy-turned-love struck-suitor Morris Townsend, but he's limited in range. Plus, the chemistry between Catherine and Morris isn't there.

But perhaps the biggest obstacle to this show's success is the tennis court style staging.

It's unusual to have the audience seated on both sides of a production rather than in front or around. It makes it difficult to see all of the action and it's distracting to have actors coming in and out of the curtains right next to the seats.

It also seems that this production cries out for more than a minimalist set. The Slopers have money and live in a gorgeous mansion, so there should be a little more in the way of silk and satin. Empty frames and bare black floors don't set it up properly.

The music, provided by violin and viola players Emily Brown and LeeAnn Morgan, is pretty and adds a lovely sweetness to the story — a story of love and heartbreak based on a parent's misguided assignment of blame and personal loss.

"The Heiress" is an interesting story and worth seeing. Just don't go with grand expectations.

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com