Much Ado About Nothing

Last night, I saw much ado about nothing at the Studio Theatre.

You might wonder why I didn’t put the title of the play in quotes, or boldface, or italics. The reason is simple: it’s not the title of the play. It is descriptive of the experience.

The play was Harold Pinter’s “Moonlight”, the story of a dying man, and his not quite love/not quite hate relationship with his wife who tends to him, and his complaints about his two totally estranged sons (who are as strange, as they are estranged), and the ghost or spirit of his younger daughter, who most likely, but not most assuredly, is dead.

Ted van Griethuysen as the dying Andy rails and thrashes around in bed, his wife Bel, played by Sybil Lines, quietly does her needlepoint, Bridget (Libby Woodbridge) occasionally ruminates and most often just stares on a ledge above her parents’ bedroom, and her brothers Jake (Anatol Yusef) and Fred (Tom Story), verbally flail at each other, word sparring like Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, taunting each other like the characters in Albee’s “Virginia Wolf”, at first unwilling and then emotionally unable to have even a modicum of current contact with their parents. Maria (Catherine Flye), perhaps a former lover to both Andy and Bel, perhaps to neither, and her husband Ralph, a failed soccer referee and possibly ex-lover of Bel, waft through now and then.

It is a short play, 70 minutes. In spite of some terrific dialogue between Fred and Jake, and in fact terrific acting from the entire cast, without exception, the play left me totally cold. No emotions were pulled up. The lack of connection between the groups of characters carried over to a lack of connection with the audience. It was much ado about nothing.

I have read four reviews of this production from local newspapers, and have looked at some reviews from other productions. With one exception, the reviews were not good. But all the reviewers liked the cast and all reviewers liked the play. So clearly something is wrong.

My answer is that it is the play that does not work. The lines may be clever, the end of life frustration may be realistic, but the play does not work, no matter how good the cast, staging or direction. You can like a car that can’t be driven, but you can’t expect it to take you anywhere. This, I believe, is the case with “Moonlight”.

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