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Freedom’s ‘Moon’ deceives in all the right ways

Megan Fraedrich, a student at West Springfield High School, reviews Freedom High School’s “Ring Round the Moon” as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Garrett Bornarth from Freedom High School. (Photo courtesy of Freedom HS)

Amid a sea of preening aristocrats, one mysterious girl with a fictitious noble lineage shimmers especially bright in a borrowed ball gown. She’s no Cinderella and the man of her dreams is no Prince Charming.

“Ring Round the Moon,” Christopher Fry’s adaptation of a 1947 play by Jean Anouilh, is a comedy about double identities and deceptive relationships. When dashing cad Hugo suspects that his brother Frederic’s fiancée doesn’t love him, Hugo takes a page out of George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” (which was also the basis for “My Fair Lady”) and hires a commoner to pose as a society lady and capture Frederic’s heart. The trouble is, both women really love Hugo, who just happens to be Frederic’s identical twin.

In Freedom High School’s version of the classic play, Garrett Bornarth triumphantly juggled the roles of both twins, never breaking character. He portrayed Hugo as a social vampire—charming, handsome and powerful, but parasitic and manipulative, while Frederic was a pallid ghost, fidgety and morose but sympathetic. Bornarth managed to make both brothers likeable and completely distinct from one another. He switched characters at the drop of a tuxedo jacket.

Kaitlyn Vickers sparkled as the hired commoner, Isabelle, growing beautifully from Hugo’s meek puppet to a confident heroine. Lizzy Topper dominated the stage from her wheelchair as the cantankerous Mme. Desmortes. Her arch, imperious delivery and crisp diction remained consistently strong. As Isabelle’s domineering mother, Jessica Salazar played the hilarious epitome of an unwanted guest with flair and energy.

Also very funny was Anthony Wrotten as the droll and dimwitted Patrice, always ready for a glove-slap at an inopportune moment. Katie Groves’s graceful performance as Patrice’s mistress made her brief stage time durable, while Patrick Carnes brought heart to the role of miserable miser Messerschmann, who ate only “noodles—without butter and without salt!” The long-suffering butler Joshua played by Scott Keeler was an audience favorite with his precise timing and deadpan expression.

In a play where so much action took place offstage, Andrew Barnett, Vy Pham and Jared Soloman’s set anchored the storyline, creating an exquisitely detailed sitting room in which the many doors and windows were all unused. Lighting by Cody Jones enhanced the mood and passage of time without distracting. And the sound work by Adeel Chohan and Thomas Graham not only made every character audible, but it also provided background noises of a raging party offstage.

Although some actors struggled with keeping their performances consistent to their characters’ ages and the time period, the high-energy performances made up the difference. Pacing sometimes seemed inconsistent, but characterizations rarely wavered.

“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity,” Hugo sighs at one point, while twins switch places, women wrestle on the floor, a billionaire shreds his money, a commoner poses as a countess, and a young lady hurls herself into the lake. But in the end, Freedom High School’s witty and entertaining production of “Ring Round the Moon” proves that without a little healthy chaos, what is the world but a bowl of noodles—without butter and without salt?

By Megan Fraedrich, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  December 16, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
 
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