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Monday, 30 August 2010 21:25

Off-Broadway Review: AN ERROR OF THE MOON

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Andrew Veenstra as John Wilkes Booth and Erik Heger as  Edwin Booth in AN ERROR OF THE MOON Andrew Veenstra as John Wilkes Booth and Erik Heger as Edwin Booth in AN ERROR OF THE MOON Photo: Carol Rosegg
An Error of the Moon, currently playing at the Becket Theatre on West 42nd Street is a stylish production.  It boasts an interesting set worthy of Escher by Steve Capone.  An Error of the Moon is written by Luigi Creatore, who in a previous career was a record producer, producing hits for such talents as Sam Cooke, Perry Como, Jimmie Rodgers, Sarah Vaughan and others. Will An Error of the Moon be a hit?  It isn’t a bad play nor is it a great play.  It also isn’t the first play to look at the lives of the Booth brothers.  There have been a number of others including Austin Pendleton’s Booth and The Brothers BOOTH! with Maryann Plunkett that was workshopped at several theatres. 

It is a fictional work that tells the story of two of the three Booth brothers, Edwin and John Wilkes, the latter the killer of Abraham Lincoln.  It focuses on the relationship between the two brothers and Edwin’s wife Mary.  The play’s central character, Edwin is played with confidence and passion by Erik Heger.  As written, Edwin is a jealous and neurotic mess often accusing his brother John Wilkes of dalliances with his wife.  John Wilkes is played by Andrew Veenstra in his off-Broadway debut.  Veenstra’s performance starts out self-conscious and ends with an emotional and confident portrayal of the misguided black-sheep of the famous acting family.  In an understated performance Margaret Copeland is Mary Devlin Booth.  Perhaps the best performance of this four-person cast is that of Brian Wallace who plays multiple roles, each of which has its own peculiar quirks; when handled by Wallace they seem innate.  

The play begins and ends with Edwin having passed; he finds himself in limbo with his ghostly dead wife imploring him to tell his story... to US.  An Error of the Moon works best when the actors are allowed to interact with one-another and are not speaking directly to the audience (a dubious theatrical device if not done to perfection).  The stunning production values of this piece seem out of place with the clunky script.  Part of the design includes projections on two upstage panels that incorporate video and other visuals beautifully designed by C. Andrew Bauer.  These are used to great effect with Edwin’s madness and state of limbo and John Wilkes’s misguided allegiance.  

An Error of the Moon bills itself in the playbill as “a speculation.”  It ruminates about what the brother’s lives looked like behind the scenes given their divergent political views.  The Booth brothers were on opposing sides of the Civil War with Edwin siding with the North and voting for Lincoln.  John Wilkes was sympathetic to the cause of the South and his actions ultimately crescendoed in an act that would make him one of the most vilified figures in American history.

Director Kim Weild has made some interesting choices.  She has directed several scenes in which actors entering a room from stage left, exit up-center only to have them re-enter from stage left again for the next scene.  At times this results in a delay of the action as the actor has to move from up-center to stage-left to re-enter.  It also just doesn’t seem to make sense to enter a room from one place and exit another.  She has also established an odd directorial choice, having her actors leave the stage in slow motion.  I’m at a loss as to her motive here.

Veteran fight choreographer Rick Sordelet, with more than 50 Broadway shows to his name, has done a commendable job with the fencing between the two brothers.  The stage here is rather small and one false step and an audience member could find one of these two actors in their lap, or worse be impaled.

An Error of the Moon could be a sleek new play were it not for the exposition.  Just as I found myself engrossed in a scene a transition appears with one of the actors talking... to me.  The play’s author would have done well to utilize his obvious writing skills to get the actors to talk to one-another.  The scenes where the actors are talking to one-another are certainly Mr. Creatore’s strong suit.  

An Error of the Moon is playing at the Beckett Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street through October 10th.  

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Last modified on Friday, 03 September 2010 15:42