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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
The Emperor of the Moon

. . .No Unicorns? Burn all my books! — Dr. Balliardo
Concetto Russo & Ashton Muniz
The Emperor of the Moon opened the Rose Footprint at Shakespea
re & Co. with visitors from that celestial and mysterious sphere who seem to have the household of Dr. Balliardo in their thrall. This madcap farce is a good- natured celebration of Restoration absurdity written by the 17th century's Aphra Behn, considered the first professional female British playwright. A play about this brilliant woman, OR , will open July 23rd at the Tina Packer Playhouse.

With the usual verve and panache of the Rose's outdoor summer performances, this world premiere adaptation by Jenna Ware is mined for every ludicrous piece of audience-pleasing shtick in a fast-paced 75 minutes of delightful buffoonery.

The premise of this predictable tomfoolery is based on the popular Commedia dell'Arte where larger than life characters enter into conspiracies and through imaginative hilarious hijinks and masquerades manage to gallop along to a happy ending.

This time the plot involves Dr. Balllardio (Lori Evans), a brilliant moralist and amateur astronomer, who has convinced himself that the moon is inhabited by morally and intellectually superior beings. Aided by Peter (Kaileela Hobby) the Doctor spends most of his time studying the lunar landscape for signs of life.

He is so preoccupied by his monomania that he hopes to marry his young daughter Elaria (Caroline Calkins) and niece Bellemante (Zoe Laiz) to these moon men if they ever land. The women, however, have other ideas and are hopelessly infatuated with Don Charmante (Colin Gold) and Don Cintio (Conor Seamus Moroney). Though Ballardio has forbidden them to leave the house, these mischievous and determined young ladies with the help of their conniving servant Scaramouch have plans to outsmart the good Doctor. He acts as a go-between by delivering their love letters and arranging surreptitious meetings in the dark which, of course, necessitates near-misses and lots of closet hiding.
Using the Doctor's misguided beliefs to their advantage, Scaramouch disguises two servants (Ashton Muniz and Concetta Russo) as ambassadors from the Emperor himself. Dressed in black and white, with all sorts of dangling doodads, they perform a side-splitting greeting in gibberish English which sends Dr. Belardio into ecstasy. He is tricked into believing that the heavenly royal personages of the Emperor and the Prince of Thunderland wish to marry his charges

Jenna Ware's energetic direction of these chaotic escapades is a pandemonium of mistaken identities, imagined betrayals, false and elaborate masks, subterfuges and overcrowded closets filled with hidden miscreants. The action leaks out into the aisles and the field surrounding the open-air tent as rivals and lovers argue and chase each other in and out of scenes.

The servants mirror the family's moon madness as Harlequin and Scaramouch, two stock characters of the Commedia tradition, vie for the love of Mopsophil, played by the wonderful comedic and sassy Caitlin Kraft.

The very talented Marcus Kearns' rubber-jointed Harlequin is the perfect foil to the equally gifted Gregory Boover's lovably roguish Scaramouch. The two command the stage with their verbal and physical comedy, some of it ad libbed and all hysterical fun. Their pratfalls are seamless and Jonathan Croy's fight choreography sends this production to new heights of merriment. One pleasure of the Rose Tent is the sound of children's gleeful laughter which greets the actors' clownish antics and these two actors provide plenty.

The exaggerated and colorful costume design by Brianna Wells adds to the general screwball atmosphere. Emma Ayres has composed several songs to underscore the shenanigans and several actors, notably Lori Evans and Kaileela Hobby have lovely voices.

Park your brain at the door and be prepared for your inner child to be thoroughly entertained. Bring some kids with you if you really want to remember what it's like to wallow in wild, raucous behavior with a happy ending.

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The Emperor of the Moon by Aphra Behn
Director and Adapter: Jenna Ware
Composer: Emma Ayres
Fight Choreographer: Jonathan Croy
Dance Choreographer: Marcus Kearns
Cast: Gregory Boover (Scaramouch) Caroline Calkins (Elaria) Lori Evans (The Doctor) Colin God (Don Charmante) Kaileela Hobby (Peter) Marcus Kearns (Harlequin) Caitlin Kraft (Mopsophil) Zoe Laiz (Bellemante) Conor Seamus Monroney (Don Cintio) Ashton Muniz (Ferdinand) Concetto Russo (Florinda) Dara Silverman, Eric Corbett Williams (Cupids)
Set Design: John McDermott
Costume Design: Brianna Wells
Production Design: Devon Drohan
Stage Manager: Sharon McManus
Running Time: Seventy-five minutes; no intermission
Shakespeare & Co., Rose Footprint Tent, Lenox, MA
From 7/15/16; opening 7/15/16; closing 8/20/16
Reviewed by Gloria Miller at 7/15/16 performance

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