Moll Flanders

By Philip PearceDSC00152

RIBALD AND RAMBUNCTIOUS, PacRep’s world-premiere production of Moll Flanders is two hours of glorious theatrical excitement. Adapted from the Daniel Defoe novel by Jennifer LeBlanc, script and production offer a vivid picture of a 17th century England obsessed with sex, thievery, romantic deceit and the continual threat of the gallows, and of a feisty gal named Moll who faces them all in her struggle for upward mobility.

Defoe helped launch the English novel but his main work was churning out highly charged pamphlets against social evils and public immorality. That high-minded crusading spirit colored his approach to fiction. Written as an extended moral tract, Moll Flanders’ full-marathon title invited a prurient reader to enjoy details in the life of a woman “twelve years a whore. . .five times a wife (whereof once to her own brother), twelve years a transported felon in Virginia,” and “at…last rich.” But Defoe had the best of both worlds when he piously concluded that his ill-used heroine in the end “lived honest and died a Penitent.”

Kenneth Kelleher’s direction and design surround and involve the Circle Theater audience in comedy and melodrama that roar and race relentlessly from one highly spiced incident to the next and yet remain clear and funny and full of surprises.

Rami Margron (pictured above) is an exuberant and gorgeous Moll. Witty and resourceful, her eyes are always open for the next alluring opportunity looming on the horizon. With a big grin at her triumphs and a shrug at her failures, she plays the lady’s sexual exploits with a blithe humanity that deflects moral indignation as in that old music hall song “She’s More to be Pitied than Censured.”

Eleven other performers play the crazy and high-powered men and women who supply Moll’s joys and pitfalls. Gifted and adaptable one and all, they are Thomas Burks, Howard Burnham, Michele Delattre, Donna Federico, Sam Fife, Aaron Kitchin, Katie Rose Krueger, D. Scott McQuiston, Sean Patrick Nill, Will Springhorn Jr. and Michelle Vallentyne and I salute every last one of them. They not only act well but sing and play music that comments on the action. They dance anything from a formal gavotte to a loudly stamped Irish jig. At every scene change they manipulate Kelleher’s flexible set to form locales ranging from a high society ballroom to a cell in Newgate Prison. Big swathes of rope become a row of nooses at Tiburn Hill, then the rigging of an Atlantic schooner, then the harnessing gear of a Colonial American plow horse. Props and paraphernalia get whisked out of sea-chests, then popped back in when no longer needed, like the succession of children Moll has to farm out after her various marital and extra-marital adventures. I don’t know when I’ve seen a cast or a set get such a wonderful workout.

The show continues Thursdays and Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2, through November 8th, and tickets may be hard to come by but are worth a hard try.

Photo by Stephen Moorer