Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Moon over the Brewery


[Photo: Moon over the Brewery director Kim Labrum sits on the Stage Coach stage, which is painted to look like Starry Night in honor of the moonscapes painted by one of the characters in the play.]
Most imaginary friends don't hang around until you're 13 years old. But they do for Amanda Wazlyk, the heroine of Moon over the Brewery, now playing at Stage Coach Theatre.

On the surface, it's odd that a girl like Amanda would need an imaginary friend for that long. She's the most down-to-earth member of her family -- the opposite of her mother, a dreamy, artistic single parent. She balances her mom's checkbook, keeps her on a strict budget, and even handles business negotiations for the sale of her art. Her mom calls her "the Young Republican." And it's not just a case of denied childhood, of Amanda being forced too early into a responsible role by her mother's flightiness and acting out her childish impulses through her imaginary friend. Amanda seems to relish her grown-up role.

No, Amanda's imaginary friend Randolph shows up for one and only one thing -- to help humiliate and drive away her mother's boyfriends. But she and Randolph both meet their match in Warren Zimmerman, a mailman who's been eating for years at the diner where Amanda's mother Miriam waitresses. Despite Amanda's reluctance, he begins to charm her with his tales of wrestling a drunk alligator and his stories about their semi-famous neighbors, and Amanda finds herself torn between wanting to get rid of Warren like her mother's other suitors, who she and Randolph always deem unworthy, and wanting to hold back and allow her mother's relationship blossom just this once.

The script is funny, with tons of witty dialogue, but it's pulled off by the excellent acting. Thirteen-year-old Marissa Jerome plays Amanda beautifully and naturally, going from playing malicious cat-and-mouse games with Warren, to sullenness when he seems to be beating her at her own game, to angry outbursts, to genuine sorrow and guilt, and even affection. Her final scene with Randolph had the audience sniffling.

Kevin Labrum brings panache to his role as Randolph, who is Amanda's perfect man -- a snazzy dresser, witty conversant and brilliant strategist -- and, we later find, a very needy imaginary friend. Even perfection wears out its welcome.

Nichole Stull does a marvelous job as Miriam, creating a fascinating mother-daughter dynamic with Amanda and a sweet but complicated chemistry with Warren, played charmingly by David Rodarte. Amanda may be at the center of the story, but it's delightful to see these two in their own scenes with their own conflicts. Rodarte and Stull really make their characters come alive with little touches. Stull has expressive movements, particularly in a nervous scene where she attempts to have a sex talk with Amanda. As for Rodarte, I imagine the italics in the script would just have said, "Warren giggles inappropriately" at several points throughout the play. That doesn't begin to tell you how funny it was when he actually did it.

Stull's character Miriam paints moonlit landscapes. Several of these are scattered throughout the set, and it bears mentioning that they're done with some real talent -- not to mention the floor of the stage itself, which is painted to look like Van Gogh's "Starry Night."

Also worth mentioning is the blocking of the play. It comes as no surprise that there's some swashbuckling -- if there's a rapier on the coffee table, it's bound to get used -- but it's got extra challenges to it, since it's between Randolph and Warren, who can't see Randolph and has to at least look like he's taking his cues from Amanda's eye movements. It's to first-time director Kim Labrum's credit that it was so well-choreographed. There are other nicely choreographed moments throughout the play, though to call some of them out here would be to give away too much -- but in each scene the movements seemed natural and fluid. Kim Labrum did an excellent job directing both the performances and the stagecraft. She and Kevin Labrum both had their directorial debuts at Stage Coach this season -- he directed the excellent drama Spinning into Butter about dealing with racism on a university campus -- and I look forward to seeing more from these two in the future.

1 comment:

Ger said...

I have to agree with you, Lora. Moon Over The Brewery is a beautiful, gentle comedy with a real heart. It is well staged and well acted. I think everyone who has any interest at all in live theatre should see this one. It is appropriate for kids and is enjoyed by adults, and is a great example of Family Theatre. Kids don't need to be talked-down-to to be able to enjoy a play with their parents and friends.