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Marry for money? Why not? If one marries up, life can be that much better.
That, at least, is the guiding philosophy of Susy Branch, lead character in the new old-fashioned musical Glimpses of the Moon, now enjoying its World Premiere at Alexandria’s MetroStage. In Branch’s 1920s America, the benefits that accrue from a marriage — not just wedding gifts but also invitations to high-society events — keep on giving long after the ceremony.
Based on a 1922 novel by Edith Wharton, Glimpses of the Moon crackles with wit and barbed cultural references. Writer Tajlei Levis embellishes Wharton’s satiric tale by poking a little fun at some of the dated gender dynamics at play, and certainly at the cliché that money can’t buy you love. Oh, but money can help love along.
Glimpses of the Moon also confirms that real love is blind and can overcome financial hurdles — and also that new, quality theater isn’t just the preserve of the better-known, better-funded and better-located institutions.
MetroStage may be housed in a glorified tin barn, tucked away in a bland, almost barren part of Alexandria. But expectations can be deceiving. This unassuming company certainly knows how to put on a dazzling, transporting show.
In this case, MetroStage transports us to the Jazz Age high society, where strivers Suzy (Natascia Diaz) and Nick Lansing (Sam Ludwig) meet at a Manhattan brownstone and hash out a plan to marry. There is obvious chemistry between the two from the start, but Suzy, especially, can’t see it for the dollar signs in her eyes.
She’s transfixed by all the lavish wedding gifts the Lansings will earn from their rich friends, which they can then pawn, living off the earnings for a good year or so. By then, they can each find a wealthy suitor to get hitched to. Of course love complicates the scheme, as does the arrival of wealthy suitors, literally begging for their respective hands in marriage.
Glimpses of the Moon drags a bit in spots, and John Mercurio’s very contemporary but not terribly memorable score, serviceably brought to life by a three-piece band, doesn’t hasten the proceedings. It’s often both buoyant and plodding at nearly the same time, such as in the opening company number. But Lisa Zinni’s sumptuous costume designs will captivate you. Zinni helps make high society living look as appealing as it should.
Also richly aiding the story, making it glow, is a strong cast. Particular praise is due Diaz, a New York actress who won a Helen Hayes Award for her last stint at MetroStage (ROOMS, a rock romance). Diaz, whose voice calls to mind Bernadette Peters, has the star power to suggest we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more from her.
That verdict solidifies even more when you learn that Diaz only assumed the lead role just a week or so before the musical opened earlier this month. You’d never know she hadn’t been rehearsing the role from the get-go. On that score, Lauren Cohn is perhaps even more impressive. She only joined the cast the last week of rehearsals to assume Diaz’s former roles — yes, roles, plural.
Cohn is such a professional, she not only acts as if she’s been at all three comedic roles as long as the rest of the cast, she even steals the show as Coral Hicks, a wealthy intellectual obsessed with wooing Nick.
”Until we find love, we’ll have a lovely time,” goes a line from the show. The nuance in that statement perfectly captures the feeling you’ll have leaving the theater, stepping out into the moonlight, preparing to head back to the hustle and bustle.