What a swell party this is: Two impoverished fortune hunters decide to wed for money and cheat their friends in this Whartonian trifle.
By Ellen Wernecke
Susy (Patti Murin) doesn't want to be a fortune hunter, but she has no choice but to marry up if she wants to maintain her lifestyle in Jazz Age Manhattan. She hits it off with classics expert and aspiring novelist Nick (Michael Minarek) at an Upper East Side party, despite their hostess’ attempts to separate them. Susy and Nick recognize each other – call it a Jordan Baker moment, and Nick, like Carraway, has scruples the husband-hunting Susy doesn’t quite share. The pair conspire over the course of a song, "The Proposal," to marry for the favors and gifts, then amicably divorce once they’ve found their millionaires. A summer in Newport, at the home of a rich and unfaithful couple (Beth Glover and Daren Kelly) distracts them from their advantageous matchmaking, and inevitably they find themselves quite pleased with each other’s company, which is why such an arrangement cannot last -- or as they put it, “Till we’re rich we’ll have a lovely time.”
Susy is a romantic and her plaintive wail “Life is so long and I am so young -- what does last then?” is reminiscent of a sentiment more radically modern than Wharton’s better known works; I was reminded of indie heroine Juno telling her father, “I just need to know if it's possible for two people to stay happy together forever, or at least for a few years.” Both plucky girls get the answer they’re looking for after Nick dallies with a former student and unlikely temptress in a safari jacket (Laura Jordan) and Susy is courted by a fellow fortune hunter who suddenly becomes rich (Glenn Peters, having the most fun of anyone onstage). The clever, jazz-influenced songs by Tajlei Levis (lyrics) and John Mercurio (music) advance the plot, from the tango-esque “Cigars” (about the compromises Susy and Nick must make to stay with their elite pals), to the acid-tongued ensemble number “Dinner Party With Friends.”
A follow-up to The Age of Innocence, Glimpses of the Moon was considered in Wharton’s day to be the superior novel, but this adaptation skips rather light on its feet until the conclusion. The production’s gambit of having a guest each week perform the sweet ballad “Right Here, Right Now” to a still-in-denial Susy and Nick may or may not resonate; last week’s featured performer Jane Summerhays forgot her lyrics and stretched the second verse into unrecognizability. But this spot cannot mar a sweet and well-mounted production, which allows Murin (currently starring a few blocks away in “Xanadu”) to shine even among the talented cast.
"Glimpses of the Moon"
Now playing Mondays through March 10 at the Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel, 59 W. 44th Street
Tickets $50 plus a $30 food and drink minimum, call 212-419-9331 (or e-mail Barbara McGurn)
For more information, visit Glimpsesofthemoon.com.
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