Arts Listings

The Theater: Masquers Present ‘Ring Round the Moon’

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Tuesday June 26, 2007

“If a working man can’t kill himself on a Sunday morning, we may as well have the Revolution at once!” Witty, barbed lines like these are almost thrown away in Jean Anouilh’s Ring Round the Moon, as brilliantly translated by Christopher Fry, and charmingly produced at the Masquers Playhouse in Point Richmond. 

But beneath the sparkling veneer is a streak of melancholy, almost Shakespearean, at the passing strange guises of rich and poor, beautiful and plain, in this modern romance of High Society tricked by its own credulity, and love mistaken for duplicity—and vice versa. 

It’s particularly like those Shakespeare comedies that rely on doubling, taken from the allegories and fantastic romances of Antiquity. Here it’s rich, handsome twin brothers, amiable Frederic and clever, cynical Hugo (both deftly played by Cin Seperi), and the very different pair of girls who love them—each loving the wrong one. Mistaken identity and indiscriminate taste—the stock-in-trade of old romance, whatever end it’s put to.  

Frederic is in love with the daughter of cunning financier Messerschmann (David L. Lee), Diana (a pouting Rachel Garcia), and spends his nights beneath her window. “The maid finds his bed uncrumpled and the rhododendron bush crumpled,” remarks Hugo to the agitated, hand-wringing butler Joshua (piquant Norman MacLeod). Yet Diana’s stuck on Hugo, and believes he’s kissed her in the park. The two brothers are identical, except in character. “Why haven’t you a heart?” Hugo is asked. “Because my brother has too much,” he answers, “I love nobody; that is why I can organize this evening’s little comedy.”  

For a ball, Hugo hires Isabelle, an itinerant dancer (Jillian O’Malior, a splendid ingenue), traveling with her semi-bohemian stage mother (madcap Dory Ehrlich), to pose as a pretty girl of quality, and woo Frederic away from Diana. Hugo is to be her Svengali, her Pygmalion—except in this case, the creation falls for the creator. Hugo, absorbed in his ruse, doesn’t notice.  

“So according to you, the truth means nothing,” Hugo’s asked. “Nothing, if no one believes it!” There’s an echo of magic in the wings, as the brothers switch off, and the snare for Frederic is played out. But there are complications. 

Madame Desmermortes (a very charming Loralee Windsor), the wheelchair-bound matriarch, might catch wind of the intended ruse, and tweak it with her considerable wit, which she reels off like a Lady Bracknell. (Berating her companion, Capulet (Sandra Bond), for leaving her alone: “I’ve gone over all my shortcomings—twice! And if you’d been longer, I’d begun to regret them!”) 

There’s also that affected, archly flamboyant Dorothy, Lady India (Anne Collins, striking pose after pose), Meserschmann’s mistress, entangled too with the clockwork doll-of-a-beau, Patrice Bombelles (Ted V. Bigornia). Their deadpan tango-with-scheming dialogue is a showstopper (choreographed by Kris Bell). And there’s Messerschmann himself, threatening Romainville (fluttery lepidopterist C. Conrad Cady) with failure of his pig-iron interests if the ruse, in which he plays Isabelle’s uncle, isn’t stopped.  

“You’re young and handsome and rich—what could make you sad?” Isabelle asks Frederic. “To be young and handsome and rich, as you call it—with nothing to be gained by it,” replies the young man—but it’s a rehearsal for the ruse, with Hugo taking his twin’s part. 

Somehow, as in true romances, true love, in this game of true-and-false, wins out, but not before a catfight of ingenues, a ripping-up of banknotes, and angry rejoinders about the rich and their social games versus the poor: “Your nurses were right to tell you not to play with the common children in the park. They don’t know how to play.” 

With John Hull’s direction and Tammy Berlin’s costuming, Ring Round the Moon comes off with appropriately gay festivity, a touch of the bizarre, and a healthy dose of world-weary wisdom: “It’s all there’s time for, before we laugh on the other side of our graves,” says Hugo. 

The Masquers, a proud community troupe, bring it off handsomely. It’s a good time to catch it, in the last two weeks of their run. 



8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through July 14 at the Masquers Playhouse,  

105 Park Place, Point Richmond.  

$15. 232-4031.