There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Glimpses of the Moon, a new Jazz Age musical based on the novel penned by Edith Wharton right after she won a Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence, may be less than the sum of its parts at MetroStage in Alexandria. But oh, those shimmering parts: sparkling rhinestone-in-the-rough Natascia Diaz as a penniless, sweetly amoral flapper who can kick up her heels at anatomically unlikely angles but has never learned to waltz; Sam Ludwig as the equally penniless, slightly-less-amoral anthropologist who teams up with her in a pawn-the-wedding-presents scam that can only go awry should they inadvertently fall in love; Lauren “Coco” Cohn, who giddily channels Ruth Buzzi (ask your parents) as a pop-eyed, anthropologist-smitten (“speak to me, in Greek to me”) heiress in desperate need of a makeover; Gia Mora as a slinky, silk-swathed slattern who’s just the gal to give her that makeover; Matthew A. Anderson tapping up a storm as an impoverished earl-in-waiting who is three cousins removed from his title; and Stephen F. Schmidt as a clueless rich guy who’s never more appealing than when he’s hiding his anguish from an ex-wife who doesn’t give a damn. All pretty splendid, if not always ideally cast (the plot would have more tension if the leading man were Shrek-ish, his competition handsome rather than the other way ’round). But that’s a quibble, and considering that director David Marquez had to get the show up on its feet and dancing, with fully a third of the cast arriving halfway through rehearsals, let me just withdraw it. Performances are hardly Glimpses of the Moon’s only charms. Composer John Mercurio has penned some appropriately bouncy ’20s-ish tunes (along with some less appropriate power ballads that could only hail from decades later). And Tajlei Levis has framed them in a pleasantly smart-ass libretto that mixes musical comedy directness (“you need a husband in order to find a better one”) with James Joyce jests (“omitting punctuation doesn’t make a book modern, just hard to read”). This does not, of course, even remotely capture the tone of Wharton’s novel (sample sentence: “It was of the essence of the adventure that, after her one brief visit to his lodgings, he should have kept his promise and not tried to see her again”), but the show was designed to suit its first venue—the Oak Roam of New York’s Algonquin Hotel, where Dorothy Parker and her buddies gathered for roundtable quippery—and it’s generally fun in performance. The show’s chief drawback is that it wants to tug at heartstrings, but traffics almost exclusively in emotional shorthand, whereas Wharton had time in her novel to have her principals change their minds about principles. On stage, characters who’ve been blithely scamming rich folks all evening develop scruples at such authorially convenient moments, and with such logic-challenging abruptness in the second act, that the show starts to seem a Glimpses of the Moon for the Slightly Misbegotten, when it has aspired until then—for the most part with considerable fizz—to be a latter-day Astaire/Rogers vehicle.