The Moors, at Mt Holyoke, Was a Dense Situation

Cast of The Moors: Gina Pascuito, Olive Benito, Isaiah Woods, Jiwon Kim, Claire Clunis
Cast of The Moors: Gina Pascuito, Olive Benito, Isaiah Woods, Jiwon Kim, Claire Clunis

IMG 3385 1It’s scary in “The Moors”The Moors at Mt Holyoke College

We took a country drive out into the rural pastures of South Hadley. Not The Moors of England as goes the title of the play we’d be seeing performed by Mount Holyoke Theater, but a more serene place than the famously ghoulish and scary Moors of England.

The Moors’ production’s printed program depicts two silhouettes of women, and a dark background, and that foreboding is essential to setting the scene in this production. Into a country estate in these scary Moors lands a young woman who answered a series of letters to get to a new position as a housekeeper. She’s quickly taken aback by her strange women hosts.

There are two sisters here and a talking dog (down!), but the aforementioned man of the house and the talented letter writer isn’t around.  Quickly we realize that the tall Agatha (Isaiah Woods) pulls no punches and is a tough cookie. “Don’t answer!” she says again and again, cutting off his sister Huldey rudely.  The theme of the play has been called parody and pastiche.  Simply, parody which is ridicule or pastiche, to proffer more genuine praise.  It is Gothic, and dark and the dialogue at some points just goes on too long and trails off into nonsense.

Director Nicole Tripp’s production is 75 minute long and that’s before intermission. There is a secondary plot involving the family dog, Mastiff (Gina Pascuito) and a Moorhen, (Claire Clunis) who dispense pearls of dating wisdom like ‘you shouldn’t fly because I can’t so you should walk with those wings.’ I am not sure these scenes were necessary and they just made what turned out to be a 2 hrs 15 minutes long show feel a bit padded.

We know right away that this Agatha is no one to mess with, and she gets her comeuppance from the diary-writing Huldey, who lives to be recognized as a writer.  The set here was a 19th century living room, and a running gag was how many different names the players had for the same room.  “This is your bedroom,’ this is the grand hallway,” was the refrain. The maid Mallory, or Marjory in the next scene, is a running gag where she swaps out her nurse’s cap for a different ones, and alternates being pregnant with a scary Typhoid cough.  Steer clear!

Like her boss  Agatha, Marjory is quick with a dry quip, and her pacing was funny.  Many of the audience laughed at Huldey’s antics, like her over the top song at the end, but I found her character annoying from the first scene.

There is much here to appreciate, this nod to Gothic style but a mix of modern phrases and characterizations deploying fog machines with a fog that drips off the edge of the stage  all provided a solid atmosphere of the chilly and scariness of the creepy Moors setting in England. This script and the way the show was written by Jen Silverman explores many themes like heirarchies, Gothic principals and other tropes.  It’s complex and some times it just was a bit too much.

The Moors at Mt Holyoke, Rooke Theater.