Student actresses (left to right) Bailee Miner, Brynn Francis and Nicole Frederick perform in Utah State University’s ongoing production of “The Moors” at the Caine Lyric Theater on Center Street downtown from Logan.
LOGAN – The current production of Moors by the Department of Theater Arts at Utah State University is guaranteed to be the weirdest show you’ll see anywhere in Cache Valley this year.
But it’s also very funny and brilliantly staged and preformed.
The opening night production started on an eerie note with three college professors on stage to explain the show before the curtain went up. It was kind of condescending, like the audience wasn’t smart enough to appreciate Moors without conference.
It also seemed to be doing a disservice to playwright Jen Silverman and USU student performers.
Why not just let Moors stand up, say what he says and let the audience understand?
That’s half the fun, after all.
For lack of a better description, Moors is a kind of gothic fairy tale in which only the strongest Darwinians live to be happily ever after. It’s about the unintended consequences when a deep-seated English governess is lured into a very peculiar house filled with very peculiar women who do very peculiar things.
At first, nothing makes much sense and it almost feels like you’re watching a relic of the Theater of the Absurd from the late 1950s. love that dares not speak its name, very unfeminine avarice, a bit of base cunning and an absolutely spectacular homicide.
Then you realize that Silverman has been pulling your leg all night and you can only smile sadly at being duped so completely.
Silverman’s accomplices in this extended gag are six talented USU actors.
As Agatha, Bailee Miner rules an isolated mansion with a malevolent tongue and an iron fist. Having rebelled against both her invisible brother Branwell and Victorian expectations of her gender, Agatha has now hatched a manipulative plot to ensure the continuity of her family line.
Nicole Frederick subtly plays Emilie, the seemingly naive governess who has been drawn to the desolate setting of Moors expecting romance with Branwell and finding a horse of an entirely different color.
Brynn Francis plays the delightfully eccentric child Huldey until her character and the plot of Moors becomes a darker shade.
McKenna Walwyn’s depiction of long-suffering maid Marjory (or Mallory, depending on her location) evokes sympathy at first. But no one is what they seem Moors and Mrs. Walwyn eventually becomes a slyly subversive element in the household.
Ironically, the most human characters in Moors are not human at all.
Jack Carter Roberts plays the manic-depressive Mastiff, a dog long neglected by Agatha and Huldey who focuses his affections on a naturally nervous Moor-Hen kindly played by Ollie Chieppa. The tragic outcome of their relationship turns out to be as inevitable as the dark doings of the mansion.
Director Paul Mitri’s artistic team brilliantly supports the distribution of Moors.
Imaginative projection designs by Jess Wallace and Michael Francis convincingly bring the bleak landscape and intemperate wilderness climate surrounding the mansion to life on the stage of the Caine Lyric Theatre.
Congratulations also to Jason Spelbring for the choreography of a disturbingly realistic murder.
The USU Department of Theater Arts warns members of the public that Moors contains adult humor, sexual themes and scenes of violence.
Night performances of Moors are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on February 12, 15, 16, 17, and 18 at the Caine Lyric Theater on Center Street in downtown Logan.