By SHARON EBERSON
On opening night of PICT Classic Theatre’s “The Heiress,” I was seated beside the regal costume designer Joan Markert, who has worked with the Pittsburgh Playhouse for 38 years and PICT for 12.
As much as I enjoyed the production, it was the costumes that had me rapt, from Erika Cuenca’s first entrance as Catherine Sloper.
Catherine’s dresses are like another character in the play, as they are in “Washington Square,” the Henry James book that inspired the play.
Catherine’s first entrance is as a shy, nervous and eager-to-please daughter, in a “cherry red” dress — the color of hair ribbons worn by her late mother.
Instead of praise for the ornate frock and color choice, her imperious father (another terrific role for James FitzGerald) uses it as a point of cruelty, his first of many.
Cuenca is swathed throughout in hoop-skirted finery, reflective of 1850s New York City and a visit to Paris. As she gains sophistication and confidence, so, too, does her wardrobe reflect the woman she is becoming.
It got so I couldn’t wait for the next costume reveal.
The play is memorable for other reasons as well — FitzGerald’s monstrous doctor and Cuenca’s character evolution among them. PICT’s “The Heiress” is an example of why it’s a boon for audiences of all experiences when the classics get a thoughtful revisit, and have the bonus of Markert’s classic touch.
At WQED’s Fred Rogers Studio through April 27. Tickets are $15-$48; www.picttheatre.org/play/the-heiress or 412-561-6000.