After an 18-month hiatus, live theater returned to the Chapel Street Players’ stage on Friday, September 17th in the form of Moon Over the Brewery, a not so ordinary play about family dynamics by Delaware County playwright Bruce Graham, former playwright-in-residence at the Philadelphia Festival Theatre For New Plays. The play, set in an unspecified Pennsylvania coal town, is directed by Kathleen M. Kimber and stars Meg Barton, Frank Newton, Jerimiah Dillard, and Tami Lunsford.
Moon Over the Brewery is a tale of conflict between free-spirited single mother, Miriam Waslyk, an artist who sculpts, makes quilts, and paints moonscapes after her day job as a waitress, and her precocious teenage daughter, Amanda, who disapproves of Miriam’s male suitors and attempts to run them off before they can get too comfortable. There are two men central to the story—Warren Zimmerman, a postal carrier and Miriam’s latest beau, and Randolph, Amanda’s imaginary friend and co-conspirator—the conspiracy being to get the male companions to kick rocks.
Amanda (Barton) is a young comic, evil genius. Proficient in the intricacies of tormenting adults and making them want to flee. This teenage terror exploits anything she can, from mortification (presenting to Warren (Dillard) the watch that he accidentally left behind the night before) to the Encyclopedia Game, her ultimate form of obliteration, in her attempts to ensure no man sticks around. No man, except Randolph (Newton). Miriam (Lunsford) loathes the invisible Randolph, who is invisible to all but Amanda. She sees him in the form of the lead male character in whatever novel she is currently reading. Whatever his form, his resolve is firm – there shall be no men in Miriam’s life.
Barton is a near pint-sized comedic genius with impeccable timing and a great stage presence. It was a treat to see Meg Barton on stage again as she is a delight. One hopes to see this actress grace the stage again soon. Barton’s partner in crime, Newton, is charming and deliciously wicked in his loathing of Warren. Newton’s presence (or Omnipresence) makes for great comedy and pure wicked fun when he sets out in concert with Amanda to run Warren off.
Miriam is supposed to be a free-spirit, someone who loves to paint – and is quite good at it – but can’t seem to manage her money—she’s unable to sell a painting for anywhere near what they are worth or balance her checkbook without Amanda’s help. Even so, the character seems more level-headed than she should be and that is probably due to how Graham wroth the part. Nevertheless, Tami Lunsford is wonderful as Miriam and makes the role work. She captivates in every scene she appears. Dillard is delightfully charming as Warren. He plays the awkward character to perfection and may just win Amanda over with his common sense, and charm.
Moon Over the Brewery is an engaging (though not especially profound) and entertaining comedy with great pacing. The actors do a marvelous job keeping the flow going and that may be credited to Kimber’s direction as much as the actors’ talents. Kimber and Christie Cerminaro’s set design for the ramshackle country home was spot on and, as always, Brian Touchette’s lighting design was excellent.
If Rom-Coms are your thing, odds are you’ll like Moon Over the Brewery which runs through September 25th. Covid-19 protocols are in place (masks must be worn), but it’s a small price to pay for the return of live theater. Find out more at https://chapelstreetplayers.org/.