Dead ringers

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  August 22, 2006

Ring Round the Moon was originally staged by Peter Brook in lavish Edwardian surrounds. Boyd sets in 1928 and gives it a flapperish feel reflected in Elizabeth Flauto’s costumes (Ginifer King’s statuesque Isabelle floats through the play in a silver affair with flowing streamers) and Stephen Terrell’s choreography. She also makes it a little heavy-handed, especially in the hands of That ’70s Show star Debra Jo Rupp as Isabelle’s pushy mother masquerading as a countess in flapper togs and furry mules. On the other hand, how delicate need things be when Anouilh himself throws in a girl fight?

Broadway vet Karl Eigsti supplies a glamorous cartoon of a conservatory, with numerous doors, some louvered, some painted glass, through which Christopher Innvar can pop with uncanny alacrity as now Hugo, now Frederick, identical in white tie and tails though not in heart and demeanor. (At one point, Hugo seems barely to have divested himself of his coffee cup stage left when Frederic enters from the right.) Innvar distinguishes the brothers by body language, so you always know who he is, even before he opens his mouth — though in the end the script winks at its own device. As all and sundry, including a newly mated Frederic, await Hugo to finish off the obligatory happy ending, a note arrives saying that “for reasons which you all know” he can’t make it. The actor is not, after all, an amoeba, capable of splitting in two.

What Innvar is, having played Jack Worthing, Cyrano, and Valmont there, is sort of the Richard Burbage of Barrington Stage. Tall, dark, and handsome, he cuts an authoritative, growling swath as Hugo, though he’s appropriately if still dashingly hangdog as Frederic. There are polished performances by a gangly Tandy Cronyn, vampish Christa Scott-Reed, waspish Rebecca Watson, and comically adept Mark H. Dold. And Jordan Charney brings a light touch to too-too-solid businessman Messerschmann, who when he can’t buy his unappreciative daughter happiness joins Isabelle in a flurry of financial ruination, tossing up torn currency like so much confetti.


DOUBLE DOUBLE: Phillipa with Duncan — or is it Richard?
No such attitude toward cold hard cash manifests itself in Double Double, where what get tossed around are Pygmalion and the Scottish play. Jennifer Van Dyck plays brittle ostensible widow Phillipa James, who picks up hairy, homeless Duncan McFee (Matt Letscher) on the London Embankment and brings him home for an Eliza Doolittle–like makeover, after which she hopes the cleaned-up and tonied-up Scotsman will be able to pass as her husband, whom he resembles, at the handing over of the £2 million trust fund Richard James was to have inherited on his 37th birthday. The real Richard, his wife says, inconveniently died two weeks ago in an accident in Panama. At least, that’s the first of her stories in a mostly clever mystery that might as well be titled My Fair Lady Macbeth.

Along with lots of hot water, a wardrobe, and a haircut, Phillipa supplies Duncan with a tape in which Richard, a Shakespeare fan, declaims the witches’ “Double, double, toil and trouble” incantation from Macbeth. That’s so he can get the voice down. But it’s one of a number of quotes from the Scottish play (“Screw your courage,” says Duncan at one point), and you ought to prick up your ears. Just don’t pay too much attention to the characters’ names or you might trip over the outcome before a desperate Phillipa changes her back story so many times that the play gets away from itself in the last scene.

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