What do you get when misplaced love and high society collide?
If the collision is occurring on the set of “Ring Round the Moon,” you get a wonderful satire about life on the Main Line at the end of the 19th century.
Written by Jean Anoulih and adapted by Christopher Fry, this is Temple Theater’s third production of the 2001-2002 season. It is the story of a man named Hugo, who is trying to save his twin brother Frederic from his unrequited love for a woman named Diana. Hugo’s motives are questionable, as he manipulates a poor girl to lure Frederic away from Diana, all the while making references to how the whole situation amuses him.
“Ring Round the Moon” takes place in the garden of the Main Line home of Madame Desmorte, who is Hugo and Frederic’s mother. The central plot of the play revolves around Hugo’s ever-changing schemes to ruin his brother’s engagement. He plans to use Isabelle, the poor girl, to entice Frederic and make him see love for someone other than his beloved Diana. The plan unfolds during a ball being held by Madame Desmorte. The ball is never actually shown, but violin music drifts in from offstage and characters pass through the garden in the course of their own personal dramas.
Isabelle puts up with Hugo’s poor treatment of her not because of his promise of payment and the ball gown which he purchases for her, but because she has fallen in love with him. Part of the brilliance of “Ring Round the Moon” is that Hugo unwittingly manipulates Isabelle’s unrequited love for him to end the same situation that his brother is in. The satire of both the lifestyle of the old rich and of foolish, mistaken love is woven together into a tapestry that draws the audience in and holds it throughout the course of the show.
The diverse cast of characters in “Ring Round the Moon” that come forward from their seats on the back edges of the stage each have their own stories revolving around the central plot. Davey White, who plays both Hugo and Frederic, does a masterful job of changing characters many times over the course of the show. He convincingly plays the diametrically opposed personalities of the two characters, seamlessly switching roles from moment to moment. As Isabelle, Marla Burkholder makes a transformation from poor girl to high society reminiscent of Eliza in “My Fair Lady.” Playing Isabelle’s eccentric mother, Brooke Lucas brings out a character who switches personality with ease. Also notable was Jessica Lewis, who plays Capulet, the companion of Madame Desmorte and long lost friend of Isabelle’s mother.
“Ring Round the Moon” is a welcome light-hearted distraction from news of war, anthrax, and a failing economy. The combination of a clever satire with a beautiful set and strong cast makes for an entertaining show.
“Ring Round the Moon” runs through Dec. 8 at Temple’s Randall Theater.