‘The Moors’ is unusual take on Bronte legacy

Play about sisters is original, fascinating show on local stage

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Many of us read books by Charlotte and Emily Bronte some years ago and recall the gloomy mood of their surroundings and interactions … Playwright Jen Silverman has come up with a different and really delightful vision, based on letters Charlotte wrote about daily life in the Yorkshires, in “The Moors,” on stage at the Arvada Center through May 18.

Meet this pair of sisters living in the family home after their father has died. They are not happy to be confined there, and flights of fancy take different forms. You will recall that the original Bronte sisters published under male names, had some original pets — and dreamed of more interesting lives and surroundings … Yet these sisters don’t feel free to pursue their dreams.

Agatha (Emma Messenger) and Huldey (Jessica Roblee) are both frustrated with the stilted life they find and express their feelings in different ways. They speak of a brother Bramwell, whom we never meet. Although for some reason, he does hire a governess for them: Emilie, who alters the scene in more ways than one. Regina Fernandez blends into the family activities as Emilie — and stays.

Agatha wants to control everything absolutely and Huldey wants to publish her writing and be recognized and taken seriously in literary circles — her version of escape.

Huldey keeps a journal, which contains what to her is daring information. Agatha runs the household including the two ditzy maids, Marjorie (Annie Barbour) and Madeline (Daniel Crumrine). There is ongoing discussion about the duties and station of The Scullery Maid and/or The Parlor Maid, who scowl, cough and sputter and go in circles … Entertaining characters, who surely have more abilities and perceptions about the household than some might suspect.

As lights initially go up, we note a large male figure in a plain tan tailored suit, curled up on the rug, drowsy, raising a head occasionally to watch the comings and goings. “Down!” Agatha yells at him in a mean manner. Geoffrey Kent plays the depressed Mastiff — a whimsical element Silverman has added, who fits the scene. His friendship with a somewhat ditzy Moorhen (Emily Van Fleet) who flies onto the set is funny and kind of sweet. A nice lighthearted contrast.

Silverman’s sense of humor keeps surfacing throughout and one quickly learns to watch for little gems.

Into this domestic scene comes a governess, with no students to teach really. She talks with the sisters and listens to Huldey read from her journal at some length — each bit goofier than the last. Her involvement grows deeper …

Director Anthony Powell, who has done a fine job of timing and staging “The Moors,” comments in his notes about the playwright Jen Silverman: “Thus Silverman began the process of creating a fictional pair of such dreamers — sisters Agatha and Huldey — with which to channel the Bronte legacy into something quirkily original and entirely her own. Most importantly, they harbor underground literary ambitions and — again like the Brontes — attempt to write themselves out of their own unsatisfactory lives.”

This is an original and delightful addition to the Black Box Repertory series, which got off to a great start last season. I’m really happy that Lynne Collins and Arvada Center management have developed this excellent addition to the local theatre scene. Try to get tickets for this gem.

See arvadacenter.org for the Black Box Repertory Company calendar and tickets, or call the box office at 720-898-7200. (Tickets go fast.)

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