Moonglow: Neary’s Latest at the Majestic

Photo 2 Moonglow

“Moonglow” Brings out Spirited Women and a Recalticrant Man

“TAKE THE BAIT RAY, TAKE THE BAIT!!” shouted Linda (Margaret Reilly Streeter) in one memorable line from Jack Neary’s 2022 play Moonglow, now at the Majestic Theater in West Springfield.   The shouter was just one of several women vying for the recalcitrant Ray’s attention in this four-act comedy with a tinge of sadness.

As Linda bellowed, she held her skirt open seductively, yet it didn’t sway old Ray, whose bumbling rejections of the two main female characters were hilarious. Linda had that funny, bossy-in-your-face vibe of Suzy, the character on TV’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Arlene, the other suitor played by Stephanie Carlson, gave a distinctly Lucille Ball feel to her character as she parried with the married Ray. Well, in his mind, he is still married, just like the wedding ring he wears attests, but the women have a point. I mean, she left him back in 1945 and it’s 1969 now.

The play introduces us to a series of likeable characters and for a breath of fresh air, we meet a charming and precocious 11-year-old girl, Dorothy, (Nora Streeter) as she tries to play the trumpet, being instructed by the protagonist, Ray (B. Brian Argotsinger). Ray can’t wait to wrap up the lesson as the aformentioned Linda is in the car tooting her horn to let her daughter Dorothy know it’s time to come outside.

Linda says Ray is “one big question mark,”  and Ray doesn’t appreciate the dig. Young Dorothy does a great job teasing Ray about what the church goers are saying about him, her poise, confidence and comic talents should be duly noted, we’ll be seeing more of Nora Streeter in the years ahead, I think.

In the play, the character of Father Hackett (Rand Foerster).  further dates the plot, back to when people paid much more attention to what a white-haired old catholic priest says about marriage and morals.  This character was played with conviction and his parrying with Arlene over her inquiry about Ray’s past was a memorable scene as the priest explained that Ray couldn’t get married again, despite her protests. And Ray, for a while anyway, agrees.

Once again the set designer Dan Rist puts in those touches that bring verisimiltude to the stage. A steam radiator, wainscoting on the walls, and two rotary telephones put us right back in 1967, to the apartment where Ray gives his lessons to students with dubious talent.  Ray gets a letter that shakes him up. The women who left him for Frank back in 1945 when he was gone so long during the war, well that Frank has died….so in Ray’s mind, it’s his golden chance.

But his band secretary has other ideas.  Arlene isn’t going to let this catch go without a fight and we watch her frustration as she tries every which way to get the blockheaded Ray to see her as a girlfriend.

He’s willing to take her out to a movie, or visit her house, but only once.  He fears that a second movie or date will mean…well, you know. AND THAT’S EXACTLY what Arlene is fishing around for, futilly. He just can’t do it.

Ray is so dense and in a fog that no matter what Arlene says, she can’t seem to move the rock.

Moonglow debuted at the Player’s Ring theater in Portsmouth NH in 2022. Neary is well-known to Majestic audiences, having written three other shows that were performed here.

Arlene got some funny lines in when she was battling with Ray, like when she said the church made her an ‘honorary widow’ when she turned 48.  Same with Father Hackett who tried to couch the affection that Arlene has for Ray as her ‘having designs on you.’  Designs?  Oh yeah.

When we meet the woman who ditched Ray for Frank (after he was gone so long in the war), the talents of the costume designer Dawn McKay really kicks in. What a perfect hairstyle and outfit Clancy (Stephanie Craven) had. She took us right back to 1945, and the outfit worn by Linda was also spot on 1967.

Actors Stephanie Carlson (left) and Brian Argotsinger are shown in a scene from the show.
Actors Stephanie Carlson (left) and Brian Argotsinger are shown in a scene from the show.

Moonglow, at the Majestic Theater in West Springfield, October 26 – December 3. Tickets. Written and Directed by Jack Neary. Tickets: (413) 747-7797 Majestic Theater