Ring Round the Moon
Though at times long-winded, Jean Anouilh's farce still has enough charm and humor to entertain
Reviewed by Avimaan Syam, Fri., Nov. 16, 2007
Ring Round the Moon
Mary Moody Northern Theatre, through Nov. 18
Running Time: 2 hr, 45 min
It's a tough break when you lose your love to your best friend. Worse still when said lost love goes to a sibling. And if that sibling is a twin – who has the exact same fashion sense, no less – well, that's the stuff fiction is made of. More specifically, that's the plot on which Jean Anouilh's high-society farce, Ring Round the Moon, turns.
Anouilh's upper-class gentry are very concerned with parentage, innuendo, and who knows whom. They believe their servants love being servants; they're bored by the most brilliant balls in the country; they never wear the same dress twice. Philanthropy is quite a foreign concept to them. And Hugo, the character most determined to expose the faults of this opulent social stratum, is in fact the prince of these principles. He's a handsome playboy who heedlessly tramples on others' feet and feelings while trying to play his tricks; as long as he's amused, the world is grand. Moon centers on Hugo's scheme to prevent his twin brother, Frederic, from marrying stuck-up heiress Diana. He enlists a poor, working-class dancer, Isabelle, to undermine their relationship by wooing Frederic in the guise of a beautiful young socialite. As Moon moves forward, though, Hugo's plan and goal warp to meet his immediate desires.
Indeed, it's hard to find anyone in Anouilh's high society that isn't wrapped up in his or her own desires. Even sweet loverboy Frederic can barely see past his own romantic plight. Anouilh leaves virtue to the lower-class characters, Isabelle and the servants, and thus Moon's genteel characters operate more as caricatures than real people, which allows for a great deal of humor and satire. Anouilh meant this to be a comment on French society, but a combination of English playwright Christopher Fry's adaptation and the Mary Moody Northen Theatre's production disassociates this farce from most of its distinctly French features. With so many snooty faux-British accents, Moon feels more like mid-20th century Oscar Wilde than anything overtly Parisian. This isn't really a hindrance, though when St. Edward's Artistic Director Ev Lunning Jr. delivers his dry, comic Messerschmann with a martial German accent, there's a bit of a continental disconnect.
Anouilh has quite a bit to say about Parisian society, too – two hours and 45 minutes' worth, as measured by MMNT's production. Hugo's ruse is launched in the first act, but its projected landing doesn't come until two intermissions later. And while the play's farcical characters have plenty of comedic moments, it's hard to stay with the forward motion at times. There are some lags on the stage, and toward the last act, the script goes heavy on the exposition as Moon gets to be more message than farce. In the dual roles of Hugo and Frederic, Jacob Trussell has the daunting task of delivering a great deal of those lines, but he certainly has the energy and panache to carry the show through those wordy moments. M.J. Vandivier also delights with her unwavering performance of the droll grande dame Madame Desmortes.
With its silly stock characters, witty repartee, and mistaken identities, Ring Round the Moon plays out as you'd expect a romantic comedy to – you can see the made-for-each-other couples by Act I (even if those characters can't see it). Though at times long-winded about the ills of high society, Moon still has enough charm and humor to deliver an entertaining night.