UMKC Theatre’s production of “The Moors” is a must see play that will leave you hysterical. It’s a dark comedy with a harsh subject that may not hit you until the end, but even then you’ll still laugh. “The Moors” is a true example of the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover.”
The play is centered around six characters: two sisters, Agatha and Huldey, a governess named Emilie, a maid, Marjory or Mallory (depending on where she’s at), an anthropomorphic dog, The Mastiff and a Moor-Hen, who both play big roles in the play while going through their own life experiences together.
The show has a black box theater vibe. The scenery and lighting work well with the small space, enough to be realistic and intimate while the audience is watching the play. The play uses every part of the stage, including where the audience sits, which is an example of Kim Martin-Cotton’s perfect, creative direction.
The play begins unexpectedly with the scary voice of Agatha, played by Sarah Ann Leahy. She takes control of the first scene and plays her character well, instantly becoming a villain.
If an award were to be given to anyone in this show, it would go to Jessica Andrews, who plays Huldey. Her performance kept the audience laughing. Her energy, exaggerated movements and facial expressions reminded me of my 4-year-old niece running around the house, which made for a very endearing character.
No matter what awful things Huldey is talking about or doing, her character is the one you look forward to seeing throughout the play, excited for another opportunity to laugh.
Emilie the governess, played by Erdin Schultz-Bever, was performed with sweet innocence along with unexpected funny moments. The maid, played by Emily Ho, was a character who was just there in the beginning but took a lot of control toward the end. She was an interesting, mysterious character.
The Mastiff and Moor-Hen were animals played by humans, Franklin Wagner and Iris Woosley. These two characters were very unusual. Despite being animals, they hit hard with real topics. The Mastiff and The Moor-Hen had great chemistry on stage.
The play had music performed by Emilie and Huldey which made for some of the best, and cringiest, scenes. The music also keeps the play’s dark subject matter hidden by the hilarious singing and movements of the characters. Be prepared to feel as if you are watching an SNL skit or even a drag show when it comes to Huldey.
The play contained themes of love, depression and power. Even though it was a simple set, the scene changes were worked in well with something to grab the audience’s attention, happening seamlessly. The characters even used the audience, which made it very engaging. The actors looked at least once at each audience member, whether it was talking to them, sitting next to them or asking them to hold something.
“The Moors” is a creative production that should not be missed. I came into the production ready for it to end, but ended up being surprised by how much I liked it and looking forward to seeing it again.
“The Moors” runs through Dec. 8 in Studio 116 of the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center. UMKC Students get in free with a student ID.