Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Glimpses of the Moon
The musical by Tajlei Levis (book and lyrics) and John Mercurio (music), based on a novel by Edith Wharton, examinesin a more lighthearted way than such other Wharton works as The House of Mirththe dilemma that faced an early 20th-century woman born into society but short of money. She could either marry a rich man, regardless of what else he had to offer, or live as what Susy Branch (Natascia Diaz) calls a "parasite" in the homes of wealthy friends.
The year is 1922; the setting, a world of elaborate vacation "cottages" and glittering New York penthouses. Susy and her friend Nick Lansing (Sam Ludwig), a historian and aspiring novelist who pays the bills by leading private tours of ancient Greek sites, set the plot in motion by banding together in their respective searches for a husband and a patron. Their plan: marry each other and live well off the proceeds of their generous friends' wedding gifts as they seek out more likely prospects. The surprises come from the moral quandaries Susy and Nick have to confront as they navigate the unfamiliar currents of acquisition, propriety, and even love.
Diaz, who received the Helen Hayes Award for her performance in Rooms ... a rock romance at MetroStage, took over the role of Susy when the original performer had vocal problems and had to leave the cast. She may not be ideally cast as a post-debutante taking her first independent steps, but her presence is so assured and her voice so strong that it doesn't really matter. She also partners well with the boyish Ludwig.
The rest of the cast includes Gia Mora as a duplicitous socialite; Stephen F. Schmidt as her stodgy but loving husband; Matthew A. Anderson as a louche minor English aristocrat; and Lauren "Coco" Cohn, a bubbly singing actress making her Washington area debut, in the three roles Diaz had originally playedmost notably a tweedy young woman who could be the rich cousin of Agnes Gooch from Mame.
The songs are pleasant if evanescent, occasionally derivative (a distracting bit of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" wanders through the overture) and a good enough fit with Levis' witty book. Director-choreographer David Marquez makes the most of the theater's small stage, and musical director Darius Smith keeps things lively as part of a three-piece onstage band.