If Emily Brontë created the picture of the dark, desolate, and dreariness of the English moors, then this definitely sealed it. The seemingly Wuthering Heights inspired The Moors, written by Jen Silverman and directed Mike Lion, opened February 21st at the Theatre off Jackson, also a producer, telling the story of two sisters on the moors as they await their new governess. However, not everything is as it seems and everyone is playing an angle.
While slow to start, The Moors grabs your attention and holds it once it gets going. The dark and dreary, wasteland like feels of the moors is beautifully translated on the stage. The performances, across the board, are all eye-catching in their own way. The small cast of the dark and alluring Agatha (Jen Faulker), her head in the clouds younger sister Huldey (Anubhuti Sood), their governess Emilie (Rachel Uyeno) who’s searching for something, the funny but manipulative maid Marjory (Lara Dohner), and the oddly philosophical and loving dog Mastiff (Casey Bowen) with his Moor-Hen friend (Emily Hungtingford) go above and beyond when bringing Silverman’s play to life. The statement in the director’s note of the play being about people fighting to be understood but not wanting them too close sums the characters up perfectly. In many scenes, there’s this uneasiness and twisted feel to it, almost adult fairytale-like, that the actors portray to the audience even if the characters themselves aren’t uneasy. The complexity of all their relationships is equally fascinating.
Likewise, the costume, lighting, sound, and set designs, complete with fog machines, are all spectacular and add to the feel of this Wuthering Heights type drama. The Moors has a dark sense of humor as well, mostly coming from Agatha and Marjory. There are multiple unknown quantities explained throughout the runtime that keeps the viewer engaged, and I don’t think I’ve been as floored by the last line before intermission that will leave your mouth agape. As the mysteries are slowly revealed, The Moors morphs brilliantly from just a dark comedy to a tense, glued to your seat play that leaves you not only curious about how it will turn out, but with many questions as well.
I hesitate to say the actual ending is disappointing; that’s too strong a word. However, I was left with a slight feeling of “That’s it?” after it cut to black. The slow burn of the tension builds so well that, when it arrived at the ending, it felt a little flat compared to what I was gearing up for. Some of their conversations can feel a bit repetitive as well, but that similar dance between some characters plays to express the feeling of not wanting to get too close but, at the same time, wanting to be understood. Still, a few scenes towards the end had material that the characters had gone over already.
This play deserves to be seen, simple as that! This dark, in tone as well as humor, twisted, and beautifully dangerous tale of characters trying to survive against the vastness and power of the moors will have you laughing then have you suck in your breath before you remind yourself you have to breathe. All the technical sides of the play, the performances, the costumes, the aesthetic created by the set and sound, and moody lighting create a lovely dreariness and setting. While the ending might have been slightly disappointing for me, there was still something fitting about it. Emily Brontë would be proud that this is what follows in the footsteps of her work.