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Theater Review: “Ring Round The Moon”

Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm.; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm.; Sunday at 2 pm.
Photo credit:
Ken Jacques

The moon is blamed for all sorts of bizarre human behavior. It is also said that a ring around the moon portends change, and you’ll see plenty of that in Christopher Fry’s 1950 “Ring Round the Moon,” a wild adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s 1947 “Invitation to the Castle.”

If you’re confused already, welcome to the club. This is a sort of farce/parody of the very rich. And a rom-com. And a satire. It’s set at a midsummer ball at a country estate, presided over by a chatelaine called here The Dowager Countess (and played magnificently by Deborah Gilmour Smyth). Here, several of the guests have lovers and/or secrets, while others have plots afoot to either foment or prevent love from entering the picture.

Lamb’s Players Theatre presents the wild and woolly show through Nov. 17.

Fry calls this “a charade with music.” The music is lovely and beautifully provided by meandering violinist/singer Angela Chatelain Avila, called Chanteuse.

But the best thing about the show is the splendid group of fine local actors who are not often seen in one place at one time.

The main characters are twins Hugo and Frédéric, nephews of the dowager, played with great speed and supreme talent by Brian Mackey, who leaves the stage as one, runs around to the other vom to return as the other brother. These brothers are about as alike as chalk and cheese, so Mackey has to make mental switches between cold-hearted, calculating Hugo and kindly if a bit muddled Frédéric while running around for his next entrance.

Hugo’s calculations push the plot forward. Mainly, he’s trying to steer Frédéric away from his infatuation with grasping rich bitch Diana (a wonderfully flinty Rachael Van Wormer), daughter of wealthy businessman Messerchmann (Manny Fernandes).

To do this, Hugo has invited beautiful but poor working-class dancer Isabelle (brilliantly played by Joy Yvonne Jones) and her pretentious Mother (the always wonderful Yolanda Marie Franklin), in hopes that Frédéric will desert Diana (because, surprise! Hugo wants her for his own).

The first act plays like a long farce, with everyone except the wheelchair-bound dowager and her attentive companion Capulet (played with grace and humor by Cynthia Gerber) running in and out and making plans, arguing or giggling with other characters. The exception to this is Jones, whose hypnotic presence as Isabelle makes me forget everyone else is onstage. (This is not unusual; she does this every time I see her.)

The second act forsakes farce for speechy parody, sometimes even satire of the vapidity of the rich.

Except, as I said above, for Isabelle, who here gets the lines to go with the presence, telling Manny Fernandes’ excellent Messerschmann that she will not be treated like a slave or an object. His effort to buy her off brings the best scene in the play, for reasons I will leave you to discover. But before that, here’s her best line: “Do men become masters of the world by repeating themselves?”

There are several other supporting actors I need to mention. Siri Hafso plays Lady India (sometimes called Dorothy), who flits in and out like the superb dancer she is, entertaining greatly with those skills and especially doing the splits like an acrobat.

Donny Gersonde plays Patrice, Messerchmann’s secretary, with aplomb and doubles as part of the fine trio of choreographers (Gersonde, Hafso and Deborah Gilmour Smyth) who make the dances fun to watch.

Local favorite David McBean plays Joshua the butler in that way only McBean can. He’s priceless, saying it all with gestures and expressions.

Justin K. Lang and John Rosen are also fine in smaller supporting parts.

Set designer Mike Buckley has done it again, with a suitably spiffy, upper-class-look house and garden, and Jeanne Reith designed the gorgeous costumes. Lighting is well handled by Nathan Peirson and sound by Patrick Duffy.

“Ring Round The Moon” isn’t the best play I’ve seen, but it provides plenty of  opportunities to laugh, sigh and ponder.

The details

“Ring Round The Moon” plays through November 17, 2017 at Lamb’s Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado.

Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm.; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm.; Sunday at 2 pm.