THE EMPEROR OF THE MOON
Reviewed by Macey Levin
One of the delights each summer at Shakespeare and Co. is the over-the-top farces staged at the Rose Footprint. This tent-covered playing space is similar to 16th and 17th century theatres and the shows echo back to the famed Commedia del’Arte style of acting.
This summer’s show is the world premiere adaptation of The Emperor of the Moon by Aphra Behn (who is the subject of Or, to be presented at the Bernstein Theatre starting July 23.) This production is a hoot-and-a-half with its larger-than-life characters, tongue-in-cheek line delivery, vigorous staging and very talented actors who are obviously enjoying themselves.
The plot is predictable since it has been used again and again by myriad authors over the centuries. The Doctor (Lori Evans,) who believes there is a moon-civilization, will not allow his daughter Elaria (Caroline Calkins) and niece Bellemante (Zoe Laiz) to meet men because earthlings are inferior; he is preparing them to marry moon-men.
The women long to wed Don Charmante (Colin Gold) and Don Cintio (Conor Seamus Moroney) whom they have met surreptitiously with the aid of various servants, in particular Scaramouch (Gregory Boover) and Harlequin (Marcus Kearns) two characters found in the Commedia. A plot is contrived to convince The Doctor that “Prince Thunderhead” and “The Emperor of the Moon” will come to Earth to marry his charges.
The story line is really inconsequential in this production since the emphasis is on the comedy, the music and the staging. There are fights and duels, mistaken identities, recurring jokes and improvised dialogue with a contemporary ring.
The bulk of the physical shtick and word play is in the very capable hands of Boover and Kearns as the leading servants. They don disguises, change their voices, do physical and verbal battle, dance, sing and drive the show. The rest of the cast also indulge in slapstick, singing, dancing and other sorts of faked havoc. Ashton Muniz and Concetta Russo get laughs as servants who pose as faux-ambassadors from the moon. Lori Evans’ Doctor is a perfect foil for the schemers who surround him.
This whole energetic daffiness has been staged by Jenna Ware, who adapted the script; she has also directed several of the Rose shows. She has obviously given her actors a lot of room to play with the script while keeping control over the total intention of the production. Brianna Wells’ costumes are colorful, identify the station of the characters and give them to ability to do their broad physical mishegas. Jonathan Croy has staged the various “fights” with a close eye on the comic elements as does Marcus Kearns choreography to Emma Ayres’ original music.
A pleasure at these shows is to hear young kids’ hearty laughter. To enjoy the show, adults should have a child-like quality in their personality and a willingness to have fun.
The Emperor of the Moon by Aphra Behn; Director and Adapter: Jenna Ware; Composer: Emma Ayres; Fight Choreographer: Jonathan Croy; Dance Choreographer: Marcus Kearns; Set Design: John McDermott; Costume Design: Brianna Wells; Production Design: Devon Drohan;Stage Manager: Sharon McManus.
Cast: Gregory Boover (Scaramouch) Caroline Calkins (Elaria) Lori Evans (The Doctor) Colin God (Don Charmante) Kaileela Hobby (Peter) Marcus Kearns (Harlequin) Caitlin Kraft (Mopsophil) Zoe Laiz (Bellemante) Conor Seamus Monroney (Don Cintio) Ashton Muniz (Ferdinand) Concetto Russo (Florinda) Dara Silverman, Eric Corbett Williams (Cupids)
Running Time: Seventy-five minutes with no intermission at Shakespeare & Co., Rose Footprint Theatre, Lenox, MA July 15 – August 20, 2016. Box Office 413-637-3353 or go to www.shakespeare.org.