Patricia Fagan and Diego Matamoros don’t quite launch in this Moon.
RING ROUND THE MOON by Jean Anouilh, adapted by Christopher Fry, directed by Joseph Ziegler (Soulpepper). At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill). To September 20. $5-$65. 416-866-8666, soulpepper.ca. See Continuing. Rating: NN
No less a figure than Peter Brook directed the first production of Jean Anouilh's L'Invitation Au Chateau back in 1947 and a few years later enlisted Christopher Fry to adapt the play into English, resulting in a legendary 1950 production starring Paul Scofield, Claire Bloom and Margaret Rutherford.
Soulpepper's revival makes it hard to see what all the fuss was about. The farce about twin brothers (one good, one bad), a noble ballet dancer and the enormous gap between the French rich and poor doesn't resonate much today. Jean Renoir captured it so much better on film a decade earlier in The Rules Of The Game.
Director Joseph Ziegler tries to convince us there's magic in the script. He introduces characters with an annoying little Tinkerbell ring, and there's lots of fairy-tale prettiness in Christina Poddubiuk's sets and costumes.
The show's worst moments are also the showiest. Ziegler and choreographer Robert McCollum's addition of dance to some scenes feels like a lame attempt to entertain the So You Think You Can Dance? crowd.
And Ziegler can't disguise the fact that the rambling, one-liner-filled first act is a mere set-up for the more serious (and tonally inconsistent) second act.
There are a handful of good performances, mostly from the sidelines. Brenda Robins adds comedy and pathos to her wannabe social climber and Diego Matamoros's disillusioned businessman is a fascinating variation on his tragicomic Chekhov characters.
For four-fifths of the play, Ziegler and his design team do a good job of suggesting there's a big party - complete with Mike Ross's easy-on-the-ears music - going on in the next room. I know the feeling. We should be having fun, too.