In his seminal work Moonchildren, Michael Weller chronicled a year in the life of college seniors, circa 1965 - a period when America, like the play's youthful protagonists, was at the point where idealism, maturity, and reality clash. It is a stunning work, one that has weathered the years to become that rarity, a contemporary play that, while rooted in the era in which it was written, remains contemporary because its underlying themes are universal and unchanging.
The Oberon Theatre Ensemble's recent revival was an intelligent, acutely observed, and beautifully acted theatrical experience that transcended categorization. The performances were exciting, true, and fresh; the production was simultaneously funny and heartbreaking; it was well-paced and well-designed; and it could (and should) have been lifted in its entirety and transferred to the stage of the Booth Theatre, the Cherry Lane, or the Ahmanson (in L.A.) to sustain an extended open-ended run. Director Tim Errickson displayed an unerring sense of the piece that never failed the work, the actors, or the audience, and the entire evening reverberated with the thrill of the true meaning of the word revival: a life restored to full strength and validity.
Each of the performers had moments of genius - the haunting look on Mac Brydon's face as he realizes his mother is dying and his girlfriend has cheated on him; Kate Ross's pained confusion as she realizes she must make hard choices and live with the consequences; Sarah Sutel's resigned glee at her Earth mother role in life; the wonderfully intimate playfulness between Christopher Yeatts and Scott Carlisle (who reminds of the young Kevin Kline); Jane Courtney's delightfully deep dizziness; Trevor Jones's perfect reading of sexual ambiguity; Jordan Meadows's utter satisfaction in his own nerdiness; Victor M. Trevino's ability to blush to the roots when telling an off-color story; Laura Siner's hilarious turns as a nosy neighbor and over-ambitious police officer; Brad Fryman's ill-concealed façade of bravado at the prospect of loss - all beautifully detailed little moments that built and fed upon each other until the evening exploded from the fireworks of gifted actors performing as a true, incendiary ensemble.
The evening was further brightened by Denise Verrico's accurately detailed student-apartment setting and Julia Logan Trimarco's accurately detailed '60s costumes, which, like Charles Foster's accurately detailed lighting, changed according to often-overlooked little things like the time of day and season of year in which a particular scene was set. Marvelous.
As the youthful rebels of the 1960s now race towards their own 60s, their legacy of a rebellious youth culture run amok is still with us, as indeed it always had been, albeit in very different realizations since the very first human's brush with adolescence. It is the brilliance of Weller that his focus on the universal rather than the specific will always keep Moonchildren relevant, and it is the brilliance of Tim Errickson and Oberon Theatre Ensemble that they realized it, so aptly, so intelligently and so beautifully.
(Also featuring Anson Hedges and Ryan Paulson.)
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Copyright 2002 Doug DeVita