By Beki Pineda
YOU ON THE MOORS NOW. Written by Jaclyn Backhaus; directed by Amanda Berg Wilson. Produced by The Catamounts (Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St.) through Sept. 30, 2017. Tickets at 720-468-0487 or www.thecatamounts.org.
It's always such a pleasure to attend a production at the newly remodeled Dairy with its spacious new central lobby, the ever-changing art, and the versatile Carsen Theatre, which is a literal black box lending itself to a variety of configurations to suit each new production. Visitors to The Dairy currently have their choice of two productions that honor the struggle for women's independence (the other is BETC's THE REVOLUTIONISTS). Similar scripts that use literary and actual women fleeing the dominant male society tie the shows together.
YOU ON THE MOORS NOW poses the question, What would happen if our favorite literary heroines did not take the path chosen for them by their female authors and society? In other words, was Mr. Darcy in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE really too stuffy for words and for Elizabeth Bennet (Anastasia Davidson)? Were Jo (Alaina Beth Reel) and Laurie from LITTLE WOMEN really a match made in heaven? What if neither Heathcliff nor Edgar Linton had anything to offer Cathy (Laura Lounge) in WUTHERING HEIGHTS? If Mr. Rochester had confessed to a mad wife, would Jane (Alex Forbes) make a different decision in JANE EYRE? These stalwart leading ladies stand up to the pressure of society, parents and literary guidelines to assert their free will by saying "no" to the men, banding together and fleeing to the solitude of the moors.
Of course, the men involved (Brian Kusic as Darcy, Matthew Blood-Smyth as Heathcliff, Joe Von Bokern as Laurie, and Jason Maxwell as Rochester) cannot tolerate this scorn of their proposals and form their own group to pursue and wage war on the women. While the women are supportive of one other and share their supplies to make s'mores, the men argue among themselves and cannot agree on a cohesive plan of attack. As time goes on, the costumes and female mentality move closer to modern times. Finally, in a "ten-year" reunion, both men and women have moved the familiar struggle to current settings and have achieved an uneasy truce.
Each of the women bring a spirited defense of her point of view. The script is both thoughtful and funny. While it is helpful to have some knowledge of the books being torn asunder, it is certainly not necessary. The direction of Amanda Berg Wilson created spacial pictures that moved the ladies from figures alone in their dilemma to "we band of sisters." It's delightful to watch them lose their Victorian starchiness and revert to the wild women we always knew they were.
Only one more weekend for this one. Run, don't walk.
WOW factor: 9