Fly Me to the Moon
nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
September 7, 2012
Comedy doesn’t exist without timing. This lesson couldn’t be clearer than in Fly Me to the Moon, a new play by Marie Jones now playing at 59E59 as part of the 1st Irish series. As playwright, Jones has written two finely-tuned characters whose idiosyncrasies play into one another. As director, she focuses on the fine cast’s split-second pacing.
The play opens on an unmade bed in a nearly-claustrophobic room. A bedside lamp stands askew. It is a hint of what’s to come. That is, if you should ever fall ill and be dependent upon care givers, it’s worth a prayer – whether you believe in it or not – that characters like Loretta and Francis are never assigned to your case. The play follows these two community care workers through a very bad day. It begins with two short monologues - snapshots of how their days started - and quickly escalates as they wrestle with the unexpected death of their elderly patient, Davy Magee, a lonely pensioner they have tended for two years. Despite their tenure with Davy, they know next to nothing about him; only that he’s crazy about Frank Sinatra and that he’s an avid gambler. This is enough to cause some very irrational decision-making on the part of Francis, who admires those, like her son, who can successfully work the angles to scrape by. She’s a fast talker, much faster than the dim Loretta can think, and the latter falls in line with a scheme that can only dig them into a very deep ditch.
Tara Lynne O’Neill plays the dull-witted, thick-torsoed, tender-hearted Loretta. Her slow up-take on Francis’s financial schemes are hilarious, and the deterioration of her character’s nervous system is left wide open for all to see. Katie Tumelty counters beautifully with her confident, yet lazy conspirator, Francis, on whose watch Davy has died. Tumelty knows how to adjust for a realty check when her character responds to Loretta, “I don’t think I can do CPR on a real person.” It is a treat to watch O’Neill and Tumelty spar.
The writing in Fly Me to the Moon is tight, the dialog swift and specific, and plot twists appear in apparent cascades. Act I is, by far, the stronger part of this hour and 45 minute entertainment, planting the set-up without unnecessary repetition. The plea from Francis to “hear me out” provides funny anticipation of what’s to come. While Act II is not entirely predictable, it’s a little long.
Designer Niall Rea reinforces the characters, the plot, and the irony with his set, lighting and costumes. His dramatic switch in lighting when the cast addresses the audience defines the moment. The costumes are just right.
If you’re looking to laugh, Marie Jones provides the antidote in Fly Me to the Moon. Its screwball plot, terrific cast, perfect pacing could cause whiplash if you don’t hold onto your armrests.