So, last Wednesday I got a chance to see Moon Cave, by local playwright Douglas Williams. I don’t know Doug very well, but I’ve met him a handful of times, he hangs with the cool kids over at Orbiter 3, and he seems like a fine, upstanding such-and-such. This is his first, professionally-produced play, so beyond spending an evening out, I got the good-karma boost that occurs whenever I support new work. It’s the same feeling one gets when “double-jumping” one’s opponent in checkers.
Let me start by saying that this was very professionally written and performed. Doug has a great ear for dialogue, and while the character development of Rachel was weaker than I would have liked, I found much of the nuts-and-bolts of the action to be innovative. Scenes where Richard is trying to recall the details of a pickup, shrouded in the mists of a drunken evening, are spellbinding. The actors repeat the same scene over and over, with some variations, as Richard tries to remember exactly who said what to whom, in what sequence, and what the ramifications are. Some nice writing here and nice direction.
My problem is that the ending has a gimmick. I can’t be terribly specific because it will ruin the play, but it’s the sort of paradigm-shift that’s indicative of several M. Night Shyamalan films. The problem is compounded because the whazoo of the plot isn’t terribly interesting: we know that Richard is emotionally damaged, and that damage is a result of something horrible he did in his youth, but the specifics of that horrible act weren’t engaging for me. I mean, I knew he did something, and the play treats that something as a critical mystery, but it really doesn’t matter. The something, when we finally discover what it is, is interchangeable with countless other horrific stories; it doesn’t do anything to further the plot. So, what we have is a play that relies on the unnameable gimmick to pull off the ending, and I’m not convinced it’s good enough to do it. Which is a shame, because the writing and the innovative structure deserve a strong punch at the end. This felt more like a cheat.
Having said that, it’s very much worth seeing just to hear a new voice on the Philadelphia theater scene. I dig Doug’s style, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he cooks up next.
In case Doug or actor Kevin Meehan is reading this, let me extend my apologies for not sticking around after the show. For one thing, I was starving. For another, there was going to be a playwright question-and-answer thingie (moderated by Jacqui Goldfinger, of all people), and those things are, broadly speaking, awful.
In other news, my super-secret project is proceeding apace, which led to me hanging out with Philadelphia sweetheart Amanda Schoonover. Mandy acted in two of my shows, The Do’s and Don’ts of Time Travel and Snowglobe, and as you can see in the photo, she’s a generally unpleasant person.