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THEATER REVIEW: "Rich Girl"

Some people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

I know, that’s a tired old saw, but hard-driving financial guru Eve (Meg Gibson) isn’t above adapting it to suit her needs on her TV show “Money Makeover.”

“Here’s what I learned about money,” she says. “People will hold onto it with everything they’ve got when they confuse their self-worth with their net worth.”

Eve has clawed (and, one guesses, stomped) her way to a very tidy net worth, thank you, including a huge Manhattan apartment, and now runs a foundation that dispenses grants to nonprofits helping children. She has an assistant, the indispensable Maggie (Carolyn Michelle Smith) and a 26-year-old daughter who seems to belong to some other family.

Claudine (Lauren Blumenfeld) is ungainly, clumsy, shy, extremely unfashionable (except for the long fuchsia-colored locks that don’t seem at home on her head) and has a tendency to knock things on the floor. She has been working with her mother’s foundation for nominal wages, and we meet her with Maggie, waiting to interview a grant applicant.

Maggie’s job is to keep Claudine from a total meltdown. Interpersonal relations are not Claudine’s long suit, and it’s especially difficult when she sees him: Henry (JD Taylor), a long-ago high school friend, now a theater director in need of cash to keep his company afloat. It’s almost terrifying how handsome and charming he is.

Surprised and embarrassed at how cordial and downright friendly Henry is (could he really be interested in her?), Claudine nonetheless denies him the grant on the grounds that his theater is not an educational enterprise dedicated to children. Then he gives her an invitation to the opening of his next play and says he’d like to accompany her.

Uh-oh. Wait till Eve hears about this.

“Rich Girl” is Victoria Stewart’s updated version of two previous works: Henry James’ 1880 novel “Washington Square” and its spinoffs, the 1947 stage play “The Heiress” and the 1949 Oscar-winning film of the same name. James Vásquez directs “Rich Girl” through June 21 at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.

In “Rich Girl,” the person standing in the way of Claudine’s possible romance isn’t dad but mom, who immediately assumes Henry’s interest is strictly financial and does all she can to sabotage the relationship.

It’s not difficult to guess what happens in this 21st-century soap. The only question is whether the “problems” of the rich are of sufficient interest to hold your attention for the duration.

On the upside, Stewart’s breezy way with dialogue makes the predictability easy to take, and this fine cast works hard to give the mostly unlikable characters some depth.

Gibson’s hard-as-nails Eve is one-note and easy to hate; thank the goddess Smith’s Maggie is around to soften and/or circumvent her boss’ obvious disdain for her daughter.

Blumenfeld has a tough job, but manages both to convince us of Claudine’s extreme personality dysfunction and to get us on her side.

Taylor’s Henry has the looks and easy manner of a huckster, and tries to keep us guessing as to motive, though in fact what’s at issue is why it matters.

The tech team comes through with the usual fine work. Wilson Chin’s set design works well, and Shirley Pierson’s costumes are excellent, especially for Eve, all business and class. Amanda Zieve’s lighting and Lindsay Jones’ original music and sound design are fine.

Mark Holmes and Paul Peterson contribute projections and TV monitors for the TV show scenes.

“Rich Girl” is less interesting than either of its source materials because the characters and issues raised lack both depth and substance. But Stewart’s breezy banter may win over many audience members anyway.

The details

“Rich Girl” plays through June 21, at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.

Showtimes are; Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm

Tickets: (619) 234-5623 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.