Review by Beatrice Williams-Rude
Just as there are plays that “read,” but don’t “play” (some GB Shaw, for instance) and those that “play,” but don’t “read” (some Pinter, for example) so there are concepts that sound fascinating, but the devil is in the execution.
“You on the Moors Now” is described as an examination of four well-known 19th century literary heroines borrowed from “Pride and Prejudice,” “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights” and “Little Women” and “their shocking rejection of the men who loved them.” Great liberties are taken with the sources from which the cast of characters emerges. Jane Austen’s bailiwick was not the moors, nor was Louisa May Alcott’s. “Rejecting the men who loved them” is a sweeping assertion that in large measure doesn’t apply.
The press agent does a better job of explaining what this “grand theatrical” endeavor is supposed to be than the playwright, Jaclyn Backhaus, does in demonstrating it.
The overwrought, hysterical direction of John Kurzynowski hurts rather than helps. Actors shouting directly at the audience with open-throated loud-as-they-can intensity accomplishes nothing except perhaps to encourage Actors’ Equity to insist that an otolaryngologist be kept in attendance.
This work gives new meaning to repetitive: repetitive stylized movements, speeches, music.
At one point an exchange between Lizzie Bennet (Kelly Rogers) and Darcy (Preston Martin) provides a lovely, sensitive moment. There is also intelligent, effective work by Anastasia Olowin, who plays Cathy (“Wuthering Heights”) as she “reads” from a pretend novel describing the dénoument of the piece.
The sorely tried cast includes Michael Barringer (Bingley, Grandpa Laurence); Nathaniel Basch-Gould (Laurie—mostly, mysteriously, called Teddy);Sam Corbin (Jane); Lena Hudson (Caroline, Amy, and also Jane); Jon Riddleberger (Rochester); and golden-tressed Claire Rothrock (River Sister, Meg) Patrick Scheid (St. John Rivers, Bhaer, Edgar); and Lauren Swan-Potras (Jo).
The appropriate 19th century costumes by Joseph Wolfslau deserve praise.
The sound design ranged from innocuous background tones, to Philip Glass-on-a-bad-day annoying. It was a relief when toward the end we heard a snippet of Chopin.
“You on the Moors Now” managed a rare feat: it was both irritating and boring. It runs for nearly two hours but feels like Long Day’s Journey Into Night” without the emotional wallop. There is no intermission, perhaps because were there one, the audience might not return.
“You on the Moors Now” was created and produced by the Theater Reconstruction Ensemble. It’s playing at the HERE theater, 145 Sixth Ave. with the entrance around the corner on Dominick Street. It will run through Feb. 28.
*Photos: Suzi Sadler