Backstage Review: ‘The Moors’ at Bruka Theater

In the cold isolation of the Bleak English Moors, a family comes to grips with who they are and who they are becoming. “The Moors,” tells that story.

~Photos and Review by Dana Nollsch~

Bruka Theater is celebrating its 30th season with the Dark Comedy ” The Moors”

What is “The Moors”

“The Moors” is a story of love, betrayal, family, and, most of all, isolation. This is a Dark Comedy that is wonderfully written and superbly acted. Bruka Theater has produced an intensely dark, funny, and intelligent play for their 30th season opener.

Written by Jen Silverman, “The Moors” examines how isolation has taken a family into madness. The story is clever and darkly funny but with an underlining message.

The Story

It is the 19th Century, and a young woman arrives at a remote manor expecting to be the governess to the children. She had been corresponding with Mr. Branwell, but to her confusion, he was not there when she arrived. What she does find are two sisters, one meek and living in a fantasy world and the other controlling, planning her every move with military precision. Along with the sisters are the maids, a scullery maid and a chambermaid. There is also a dog, a very large dog.

The dog has a story of his own that is interwoven into the main narrative. His struggles with loneliness finds him searching for a friend and finding one in an unexpected place. I found the dog’s journey fascinating and with a more profound message that flows alongside the main story.

It seems that the sisters and the maids are holding a secret about Mr. Branwell, the sister’s brother. The new governess also notices that there are no children, which makes her wonder why she is there.

As the story progresses, it gets more complicated, deliciously so. I won’t go into more detail so as not to give you any spoilers. But I can say that there are some unexpected twists and details to watch for.

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The performances

Each of the actors is excellent in their rolls. They are so good together I thought we should look at each of their performances.

Holly Natwora Plays Agatha, the controlling sister, with a well-executed plan. Holly owns this role as she effortlessly shows the dark side of her character while at the same time bringing a human vulnerability to the character as well. It is always a treat to see Holly on stage.

Amy Ginder plays Huldey, the sister who lives in a fantasy world of her own making. Amy plays her character as a vulnerable girl who just wants to be seen for who she can be. This is one of the softer roles I have seen Amy play, and she is excellent at doing just that.

Claire Hachenberger plays Marjory, the maids; yes, I said the Maids; you will understand when you see the play. Claire brings an attitude to her character that is delightful comic relief. She tells the story of her emotions with a mere facial expression.

Kameron Watson plays Mastiff a well Mastiff. I found his performance mesmerizing. He emoted the feelings of longing and loneliness that a dog on the Moors would feel. Being a story within a story allowed Kameron to bring a lot to the character, and he did just that.

Anna Pidilypchak plays Emilie, the governess who walks into intrigue she knows nothing of. Anna plays the part of her character’s quiet acceptance in a way that the audience gets drawn into her journey. By the end of the play, I wanted to see her find happiness; well, she may if there is a part two? And Anna shows her musical ability as well.

Charlie Chappell plays Moor Hen, a Moor Hen; it shows in her performance that she studied how a bird would be in the situation the Moor Hen found herself in. Charlie’s physical representation of the Moor Hen is fascinating.

Setting the Stage

As usual, Lewis Zaumeye has done a stellar job with the set. I could feel the dark gloom of a Manor on the Moors within the walls. Combine that with the moody lighting of David Simpson, and the set was set for the performers to shine.

One aspect of local theater that is often overlooked is the costumes, especially in period pieces. Deborah Morrison got it right, right down to the small details. The costumes added so much to the overall feel of “The Moors.”

Kudos to Libby Bakke for directing the actors to a seamless ensemble performance. Also, I want to recognize her for set concept and music design; she is indeed a woman of many talents.

What I thought

I found “The Moors” to be more than just a Dark Comedy but also bordering on Theater of the Absurd in its existential look at the human condition, oh, and the K9 condition as well. But, as I wrote this, I also realized that it may sound very dark, but I did laugh throughout the entire play. “The Moors” is a play that not just any cast could pull off, it takes actors of a higher caliber to bring the comedy out, and this cast does just that.

I suppose you can tell that I liked it, but more than that, the performances blended so well that Bruka’s production of “The Moors” is an example of what an ensemble performance should be.

The Moors was written by Jen Silverman

Directed by Libby Bakke

Cast:

Agatha … Holly Natwora
Huldey … Amy Ginder
Marjory … Claire Hachenberger
Mastiff … Kameron Watson
Emilie … Anna Pidilypchak
Moor Hen … Charlie Chappell

Crew:

Stage Manager … Riley Kveton
Producer … Mary Bennett
Costume Design … Deborah Morrison
Lighting Design … David Simpson
Set Concept … Libby Bakke
Set Build … Lewis Zaumeyer
Music Design … Libby Bakke

October 7 – October 29, 2022 OCT 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29 Matinees: OCT 16, 23* @ 2:00 PM

For more information and to purchase tickets, go to Bruka’s website at: www.bruka.org

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