The Hypocrites’ “You on the Moors Now” re-visits how the heroines of 19th Century novels have shaped our notions of gender roles.
The sons have adventures, estates, fortunes and fates..
The daughters have this thing called “prospects”..
If you have spent time at some point heavily imbibing the pen products of leading 19th Century woman authors—Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, and the Brönte sisters—you know this to be the case.
For those of us with a feminist perspective, this predictable definition of female characters by their chances to marry up or down in caste is cause to fidget. For playwright Jaclyn Backhaus, it fired her to pen “You on the Moors Now”, a re-imagination of these works if their heroines refused to drink the life-is-all-about-marriage kool-aid.
“You on the Moors Now” feels Hypocrites-Typical
At once cerebral and madcap, this production has The Hypocrites’ stamp of letting actors let loose their characters as comic caricature. This is a large cast, and much of the time you feel like you are watching in on a great fun party.
It feels so Sean Graney in style that it surprises to see he neither wrote nor directed the script. On opening night he sat there with the rest of us, smiling broadly, as if he too were taking it in for the first time.
Curiously, the men in this feminist-inspired script seem to get the much better roles, having great fun as the spurned suitors. The female characters seem corseted into different permutations of hard-ass—relative one-notes compared to the men.
How to Most Enjoy “You on the Moors Now”
Some tips and cautions—
First, do take time to get to the theater early and chat up the actors playing docents in the museum created on a famed estate from Pride and Prejudice. We had the good fortune of sitting near actor Chris Acevedo, who as a docent seemed to ooze a sort of good-natured fresh out of college youthful enthusiasm. This added to the fun and magic when we later saw him transform into several different character roles. One imagines that every other member of the cast in pre-show docent roles would similarly delight when they morphed later on.
Second, though the premise is that you won’t need to know the literature that the script references, that seems to this reviewer more false than true. If you don’t have time to read the novels, perhaps read the cliff notes or just take a pass on this script.
Lastly, the sensibilities of the script are not those that would put it in what AARP would call “theater for grownups”. This is the story from the eyes of a young woman first making her way in the world, and not that of a wisdom-soaked crone. Conversely, if you spend a lot of your energies trying not to be like your mother, this script might especially go to your sweet spot.
Director: Devon de Mayo
Cast: Japhet Balaban (Heathcliff), Maurice Demus (Laurie Laurence), Tien Doman (Liz Bennet), Emjoy Gavino (Cathy), Desmond Gray (Fitzwilliam Darcy), Deanna Myers (Jo March), Josh Odor (Mr. Rochester) and BrittneyLove Smith (Jane Eyre) with Chris Acevedo (Player 5), Breon Arzell (Player 2), Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel (Player 6), Edward Mawere (Player 4), Sarah Price (Player 1) and Sarai Rodrigues (Player 3).
The Den Theatre's Heath Main Stage, 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Friday, September 23 – Sunday, October 30, 2016
Curtain Times: Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm & 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm
$36. Students: $15.
Groups of 8 or more: $18 per person.
Single tickets and season subscription packages are on sale at www.the-hypocrites.com.
Photos: Evan Hanover
In rotation starting with Cast photo--
(center, l to r) Japhet Balaban and Emjoy Gavino with the entire cast
(left to right) BrittneyLove Smith, Tien Doman, Deanna Myers and Emjoy Gavino
(left to right) Chris Acevedo, Emjoy Gavino, Deanna Myers and Tien Doman
(left to right) Desmond Gray, Josh Odor, Breon Arzell, Edward Mawere, Japhet Balaban and Chris Acevedo
(left to right) Emjoy Gavino and Japhet Balaban
(left to right) Josh Odor and BrittneyLove Smith
(left to right) Chris Acevedo and Deanna Myers