Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 6, 2011


Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge, MA
through July 16
by Jennifer Curran

Michael Weller’s moonchildren opened on Broadway in 1972 to small audiences and rave reviews.  There have been scores of plays written about the 1960's, but precious few that get it right. Moonchildren isn’t about tie dyed shirts or love beads; it is as rich and complicated as the time.  Weller’s decision to choose a tiny slice of an era allows his audience to go beyond picket and peace signs.

With scenic design by John Traub and costumes by George Veale, the mid 1960’s are brought to life in the most real way possible. The play itself is complex and its characters can feel just out of reach. Viewers go home without learning who everyone truly is or where they come from. The direction by the very talented Karen Allen bridges those gaps and allows the characters to take on lives on their own.

The impeccable comedic timing of Joe Paulik (Mike) and Matt R. Harrington (Cootie) drive the show. In a master’s class of one-upmanship and rapid fire one-liners, Paulik and Harrington are brilliant. The two actors play so well together they could easily steal every scene, that they don’t is mostly due to Hale Appleman.

Appleman’s Bob, the center of the story, is played with an understated grace and powerhouse of emotional reserve. The audience can see the rising frustration and fear and anger at the changing tides in Bob’s world. We watch as Bob struggles to find his way through death, both figuratively and literally.

As a story about growing up, generational gaps and the certainty of change, moonchildren is a rarity. It defies its time and is as relevant today as it was in 1972. The casting is spot on and nary a weak spot to be found.