BWW Review: MOONVINE at TheatreWorks

BWW Review: MOONVINE at TheatreWorks
Photo by Noby Edwards

The laughs come fast and easy in MOONVINE, which opened this weekend at TheatreWorks. Directed by Ken Zimmerman, this play by Teri K. Feigelson won the 2014-15 NewWorks@TheWorks Playwriting competition sponsored by Playhouse on the Square. An energetic cast and a lively script keep this send-up of Southern Gothic interesting until a bang-up ending.

To start, the main characters are stuck. Sele (Bekka Koch) is hanging on to the family farm, by a thread. The land won't make a good crop anymore, and she faces foreclosure from evil real estate developers who might desecrate the ancestral grounds. (Wal-Mart even lurks nearby . . . gasp!) But wait . . . financial saviors are hovering in the background. Or is it her dreams? More importantly, Sele is also hanging on to help younger brother Huck (Dane Van Brocklin), who wants to escape the depressing old place and fire up his music career. Not surprisingly, he's struggling with a kind of writer's block. Huck can't quite get his song right. Sele wants him to do well, wants him to be happy. Maybe if she can get a good price for the old farm, she could stake her brother to a better future.

BWW Review: MOONVINE at TheatreWorks
Photo by Noby Edwards

But it's hardly all doom and gloom. Sele and Huck have a lot of fun with this. They are quite aware of their predicament, quite aware they've created their own difficulties. In fact, they needle each about this with the piercing knowledge that only family members share. The tenant farmer Eli (Curtis C. Jackson) tries to help them make sense of it all and find a way out, but they won't listen to him. This banter gives MOONVINE much of its energy. The siblings know it's all very gothic and fraught, but they keep up a steady stream of surprises colored with insight and wit. Karin Barile contributes nice work as the eccentric neighbor Ida May Apple. Strong visuals, with a simple, clever set and honest costuming lend credibility to their situation.

Photo by Noby Edwards
Photo by Noby Edwards

Altogether, this was entertaining. Amidst their troubles, don't be surprised to find a smile crossing your face. The audience gave in to frequent giggling. To fully appreciate this one, you may need a taste for popular Southern tropes. We're served a heaping plate of wisteria, kudzu, iced tea, deviled eggs, gentleman callers, dark-secrets-revealed . . . you name it. Still, the talented cast pulls everything together with style. Koch and Van Brocklin keep their eye on the ball, and you'll keep your eye on them. MOONVINE is less effective when it digs deep to pull our heart strings. The story is a little too quirky and amusing by the time all that develops. Still, we look forward to the ending, wondering how Sele is going to deal with her troubles, what's to become of Huck.

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