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 Leebrickâ€™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, itâ€™s not quite meaningful, and the second act doesnâ€™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 Wildeâ€™s offhand tone. Some actors play this humor with uncanny apititude â€” Rebecca Nachison stands out as the arch Lady Windemere â€” while a few others need to work on capturing the spirit of the affair. Steen Mitchellâ€™s gorgeous set and Sarah Gahaganâ€™s nicely fussy costumes provide striking visuals as backdrops to the mostly capable cast.
The larger issues remain submerged but clear. In Wildeâ€™s story and in Urbinatiâ€™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 thereâ€™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 Podgersâ€™ 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 archbishopâ€™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 â€” 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.