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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘The Moors’ in Sturgeon Bay spins a bizarre, dark comical yarn

Critic At Large

Isadoora Theatre Company

Entrance area of Margaret Lockwood Gallery Inside/Out Theatre on opening night for Isadoora Theatre Company’s “The Moors.” (Warren Gerds)

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV)

Mystery and mystique drive “The Moors,” an offbeat play by a troupe that loves the road less traveled, Isadoora Theatre Company.

A seasoned cast digs into the intriguing, quirky nooks and crannies of playwright Jen Silverman’s take on… on… on… hmm… the not normal.

Five more performance remain in Margaret Lockwood Gallery Inside/Out Theatre, which guarantees an up-close-and-personal theatrical experience. Various scenes take place between seating areas along the walls, and the players do their thing within arm’s reach.

The fun of “The Moors” happens on two levels.

One. A family – two sisters and a servant, along with a freshly arrived governess.

Two. The family dog and his pal, a bird.

That seems simple enough, but things about the family feel musty and of a worn, old era. One sister, Hudley (Katie Schroeder), is a simpleton. The other sister, Agatha (Margi Diny), is a conniver. The servant, Marjory (Amanda Sallinen), is surreal on the hoof, being a dutiful maid one moment and a pregnant scullery maid with typhus the next. Truly weird. The governess, Emilie (Haley Ebinal) arrives on the scene and immediately has some very important (not easily answered) questions – Where is the child to be governed? Where is the man who exchanged letters with me and hired me? Why is my bedroom the parlor?

The animals are off-the-wall, too. The dog is The Mastiff (Vance Toivonen) who is given to speak when humans are not around, and his mind is full of wondering about God, and “the pursuit of the ephemeral” and such. The bird, The Moor-Hen (Donna Johnson) speaks, too, giving a perspective on a moor-hen’s life: Flying short distances with momentary joy before crash-landing. Dinner is a grub. Yum. Conversations between The Mastiff and The Moor-Hen are philosophical, though the bird doesn’t have much of a clue. The Mastiff: “Do you know happiness?” The Moor-Hen: “I don’t know what that is.”

The story has the aura of moors – fascinating yet dangerous if one wanders too deep into the unknown, kind of creepy by dark and inclement, a force to reckon with and yet alluring. It’s kind of a trick that Jen Silverman pulls that into the characters.

A whole lot of dynamics are going on in the household. Huldey is a ditz given to romanticizing her shallow life in a diary. She hates Agatha in fratricidal ways. Agatha is a controller with smoldering embers toward the governess, and Agatha has big plans for the continuation of the family line. The maid, Marjory, et al, seems oh so simple but is oh so not. She has plans, too. Emilie is the innocent, drawn to the household’s situation like a moth to the flame.

The players are quite into their roles, given that the roles are so different and full of possibilities to work with. In the household, the players finesse all the pin pricks the people give one another. Among the animals, timing is everything as the players master the riches of the pause.

The humor along the way is wry, subtle, deliciously diabolical. Sample: Action drifts into a room new to the audience’s mind but real in life. The scene answers a question: Why is there a solitary picture on the wall of a skull? A character gives the answer: “Oh, the portrait gallery!”

This portrait gallery of a play has pictures that say a thousand words each, with each being just as odd as the next and tilting the head in quizzical wondering.

Director Richard Carlson and is exploring cast take a certain joy in this.

***

Creative: Playwright – Jen Silverman; director – Richard Carlson; production stage managers – Loretta Heath, Amanda Sallinen; lights and sound – Dan Sallinen; set, costumes, props – Cast; make-up/hair design – Leann Johnson; tech and carpentry – Ed DiMaio, Dave Counihan; music (for Hudley, Emilie and Agatha) – Daniel Kluger

Cast (in order of appearance):

The Mastiff – Vance Toivonen

Marjory – Amanda Sallinen

Huldey – Katie Schroeder

Agatha – Margi Diny

Emilie – Haley Ebinal

A Moor-Hen – Donna Johnson

Running time: Two hours, 20 minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 31; 2 p.m. Sept. 1; 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6-7; 2 p.m. Sept. 8

Info: isadoora.com

***

NEXT: “Three Days of Rain” by Richard Greenberg, Nov. 1-3, 8-10.

VENUE: Margaret Lockwood Gallery Inside/Out Theatre is located at 7 S. 2nd Ave. in Sturgeon Bay. The approximately 20 by 25-foot space is a variation on black box theater. Some spaces are equipped for that style. This space is adapted to be a theater space. The ceiling is open with a steel beam and ventilation system metalwork. The floor is concrete, painted gray. Some walls are painted black (the “black box” thing), and some walls are painted yellow. The space is in the lower level of the art gallery/studio, with the entrance along a winding sidewalk from the Michigan Street side of the building. The space is a kind of/sort of walk-in basement, though a step beyond that. Adjacent in a hallway are restrooms. For “The Moors,” a walkway on a north interior wall leads to imagined other rooms inside a house. The space suits theater that is especially intimate. Capacity is billed as limited to 49; seating for “The Moors” is for an audience of 32.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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