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“Many Moons” Gracefully Tackles a Cultural Taboo

The cast for the U.S. premiere of "Many Moons" by British playwright Alice Birch includes (from left) G. Scott Heath, Mary Guthrie, J. Evarts, and David Sweeney (photo by Alex Maness)

The cast for the U.S. premiere of “Many Moons” by British playwright Alice Birch includes (from left) G. Scott Heath, Mary Guthrie, J. Evarts, and David Sweeney (photo by Alex Maness)

It’s been said that if we could understand the people we fear, we couldn’t help but love them, and that is one of the premises behind Alice Birch’s haunting and beautifully disturbing play, “Many Moons,” being presented for the first time in the United States by new theatre company Common Wealth Endeavors. The subject matter is grim, with the play focusing on one of the most taboo subjects in modern culture; however, to reveal what exactly that subject is would ruin the gentle, slow-reveal nature of the play.

What can be revealed is that the play takes four characters, each alone and searching for something to fill the emptiness, and explores who they are at their very cores. Meg (J Evarts) is stuck in a loveless marriage and out of touch with her emotions; she allows herself to feel nothing and buries her emptiness in shopping bags and price tags, while Juniper (Mary Guthrie), seemingly Meg’s polar opposite, hides a selfish, disconnected outlook on life behind a warm demeanor and a perky attitude. Birch’s two male characters, Ollie (G. Scott Heath) and Robert (David Sweeney) each hide the same dark and ugly secret, one that, once broken down through Birch’s careful characterization and fearlessly probing exploration, becomes more understandable.

Birch’s script does not allow the characters to interact; lines are delivered in monologue form, but director Gregor McElvogue’s clever staging brings out Birch’s subtext and makes the viewer feel as if these characters have interacted in a real and powerful way though they never speak directly to one another.

Cory Livengood’s set design is simple but effective, with each character having his or her own mapped-out space, and is completed by Hillary Rosen’s bold lighting choices. Strong performances from the entire cast make up the real heart of the play though. Heath’s Ollie begins as fumbling and awkward, endearingly telling the audience how he “wants to be good with people” over and over again. As the story moves forward, however, Heath expertly and slowly reveals Ollie’s deviant side. Infusing some much-needed lightness into the dark play, Guthrie’s Juniper is as energetic and funny as she needs to be, though Guthrie’s delivery makes it clear that Juniper is meant to be a commentary on the sad state of today’s young people.

Blending difficult topics, humor, and sharp, clean-cut storytelling, “Many Moons” is definitely one to watch. Viewers will find themselves thinking about this lingering story long after the curtains close.

Common Wealth Endeavors presents MANY MOONS at 8 p.m. Nov. 14-16 at Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, North Carolina 27705.

TICKETS: $15 ($10 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).

BOX OFFICE: 919-410-8631, mailto:tix@fromcommonwealth.com, or https://www.artful.ly/store/events/1636.

SHOW: http://www.fromcommonwealth.com/commonwealth/Tickets_and_Current_Show.html and https://www.facebook.com/events/374186576018003/.

PRESENTER: http://www.fromcommonwealth.com/commonwealth/Welcome.html and https://www.facebook.com/fromcommonwealth.

BLOG: http://fromcommonwealth.com/blog/.

VENUE: http://www.cgtheatre.com/.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.cgtheatre.com/directions.

OTHER LINKS:

Many Moons (play): http://www.oberonbooks.com/many-moons (Oberon Books).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Alice Birch (British playwright): http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsB/birch-alice.html (Doollee.com: The Playwrights Database).

Gregor McElvogue (director): http://www.gregormcelvogue.com/ (official website) and Gregor McElvogue (Facebook page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Reviews