Review: WEST MOON STREET

The review of West Moon Street comes out tomorrow in the paper. I should note that this paper was massively squished for space, and I didn't have nearly the room I wanted to talk about class issues and specific actors (more on that when I have time, maybe Thursday, but kind of doubtful given the Gift Guide schedule):


Sybil Merton (Sarah Adler) and Lady Windemere (Rebecca Nachison) in the Lord Leebrick's West Moon Street. Photo by Gretchen Drew.

Of Fakes, Frauds, Marriage and Murder
In the Leebrick’s lagniappe lurk lightness and laughter
by Suzi Steffen

Relax into the ridiculous. With economic news straining emotions on the outside, West Moon Street, a farce at the Lord Leebrick, makes for a pleasant diversion.

No, it’s not quite meaningful, and the second act doesn’t hold up well (pacing may improve as the play continues its run), but so what? When the outside world turns grim, communal laughter provides warmth: Opening weekend sold out.

The script, adapted and revised by UO alum Rob Urbinati from an Oscar Wilde short story, hints at larger issues while capturing Wilde’s offhand tone. Some actors play this humor with uncanny apititude — Rebecca Nachison stands out as the arch Lady Windemere — while a few others need to work on capturing the spirit of the affair. Steen Mitchell’s gorgeous set and Sarah Gahagan’s nicely fussy costumes provide striking visuals as backdrops to the mostly capable cast.

The larger issues remain submerged but clear. In Wilde’s story and in Urbinati’s play, the main character must commit murder in order to deal with marriage. As those in committed relationships know, most humans require a kind of self-maiming, a loppping off of personality, to please partners (or society). Oscar Wilde certainly understood that. In West Moon Street, murder becomes an external task on the long checklist that precedes a wedding.

Then there’s the issue of spiritualism. In the late 19th century, depicted here, palm-readers (Daniel Borson as Mr. Podgers) and other snake-oil peddlers fooled wealthy Victorians out of their money, and sometimes, out of their minds. The Oxford-educated Lord Arthur, whom the voraciously queeny Lady Windemere desires for her collection of lovers, enlists his butler (Larry Brown) for aid in following Podgers’ prophecy: Lord Arthur must commit murder before he may marry.

When his elderly relative Lady Clem (Laura Robinson-Thomas) dies of natural causes instead of the poison he administers, Lord Arthur postpones his nuptials with Sybil Merton (the focused Sarah Adler). A subplot involving anarchist Herr Winkelkopf (Greg Gumbs, amusing even as he wanders between accents) and archbishop’s daughter Jane Percy (Zoe Grobart) needs tighter pacing at its denouement, as does much of the second act. Yet eventually, the deed is done — and delicious deceits are revealed.

Coherent West Moon Street is not, but those looking for laughs will want to see Nachison, Grobart and Robinson-Thomas strut their stuff on the silly, pretty stage.

**
West Moon Street runs through Dec. 6 at the Lord Leebrick Theatre. Tix at www.lordleebrick.com or 465-1506.

Not sure you read a book you reviewed

Having just finished "Live Through This" by local author Debra Gwartney I have to wonder if you actually read the book. You mention that she doesn't show enough anger which immediately caught my attention since the very first scene in the book is all about her anger. She sits near a young woman who reminds her of who her daughters were during a bad time and Gwartney describes how she felt like slapping the girl. That's pretty angry. The book was, to me, raw and revealing yet you submit that it wasn't "emotionally honest." Yikes! I couldn't have stood much more emotional honesty! It's really too bad that the Eugene Weekly couldn't have given this heartbreaking memoir more space and/or an interview with the author who lives in both Eugene and Portland, is a professor at Portland State University and a well-known teacher of memoir writing. It seems like a miss not to celebrate the richness of our local artists.

Submitted by C Nelson (not verified) on Mon, 02/23/2009 - 17:54.
Live Through This ... moving to a post of its own in 10, 9 ...

C. Nelson,

I read the books I review, watch the plays I review, go to the movies I review and look at the art I review. That said, of course you can and should feel free to express your agreement or disagreement with my conclusions/opinions.

Looks like we need to have a blog space where readers can share their own thoughts on each thing, since West Moon Street does not equal Live Through This. I'll post something in a couple of minutes ... and here it is. Maybe you, C. Nelson, can submit a review there? I'd appreciate your thoughts on the book.

Yrs,
Suzi

Submitted by Suzi Steffen on Mon, 02/23/2009 - 18:52.

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