InRing Round the Moon, which opened the Group 20 Players' fourth season at Wellesley last week, playwright Jean Anouilh and translator Christopher Fry are working with a regular chestnut of a dramatic medium. The plot concerns the attempt of a young bon vivant to amuse himself by smuggling a poor dancer into a society ball, so that she may embarrass all his snobby friends and at the same time cure his identical-twin brother of lovesickness. Among the several figures crouched behind the bushes--one can't help thinking--are Richard Sheridan, Oscar Wilde, and whoever it was that wrote Sabrina Fair. Shaw pops up, too, the moment that anyone out front starts to talk about money.
Yet with plays as with people, heredity is not necessarily a hindrance. Ring Round the Moon being of good lineage, and its creators being downright Confucian about respecting the work of their ancestors, last week's offering turned out to be thoroughly delightful.
At the root of the matter is the fact that the people who worked the play up are all pretty talented. Anouilh created a fast-moving and well-confused story, making even his stock characters interesting--the butler wonderfully antique, the rich Messerschmann intriguingly reduced to eating nothing but noodles, "without butter and without salt." Fry, in translating and adapting Anouilh's orignal L'invitation au chateau, left the dramatic action intact but colored up the prose considerably, at the same time avoiding any over-fanciful flights of words. Only in the third act, when there is too much emphasis on the tired theme of how awful it is to be rich, does the dialogue seem labored.
The Group 20 people did just about everything well. Director Jerome Kilty worked out a clever gimmick to facilitate the playing of the two twins by one actor, kept most of his cast over-acting to about the right degree, and at the same time managed to make Isabelle, the danseuse, a rather true-to-life and attractive character. The setting by William Roberts was very good--ornate but not cluttered--while his lavish costumes fitted well with the generally exaggerated style of acting.
The acting too, was generally fine--considerably above the usual summer theatre level--so that none of the following criticism is very grave. Jeanne Jerrems as Isabelle was pretty, suitably unsure of herself in the rich surroundings, but just a slight bit stiff; Louis Edmonds, as the twin brothers, was good as the calculating Hugo but could probably have made the sheepish Frederic more of a contrast; Dee Victor grated well as Isabelle's unbearably oafish mother; Olive Dunbar overplayed Capulet, the servant with romatic ideas, a little too much; Stanley Jay as the crumbling butler, Laurinda Barrett as the vampish Lady India, and Kilty himself as the money baron, were all excellent.
In short, everything about the production was more than competent. Ring Round the Moon bodes well for an outstanding season.