Erik Heger and Margaret Copeland in
An Error of the Moon
(© Carol Rosegg)
Erik Heger and Margaret Copeland in
An Error of the Moon
(© Carol Rosegg)
A slice of American history meets The Twilight Zone in Luigi Creatore's imaginative, An Error of the Moon, playing at The Beckett Theatre. Director Kim Weild, with the assistance of a topnotch design team, has certainly given the show a visually sumptuous staging. Sadly, the lackluster performances of its lead actors ultimately undermine this potentially dynamic excursion into speculation about the lives of Edwin Booth (Erik Heger) and John Wilkes Booth (Andrew Veenstra).

Creatore draws inspiration not only from the historical record for the play as he charts the relationship between the brothers, but also from Shakespeare (particularly Othello) as he attempts to make sense of the events that preceded John Wilkes' assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

The play begins at the moment just before Edwin proposes to the woman who would become his wife, Mary Devlin (Margaret Copeland), and continues through to the point of the assassination, recounting not only the brothers' acting careers, but also John Wilkes' Southern patriotism and Edwin's reexamination of his marriage.

Heger certainly cuts a striking figure as the acclaimed actor, but in his attempts to capture the grandiosity and musicality of Booth's style, the actor's portrayal becomes overly wooden and melodramatic. Looking nothing like the dark brooding John Wilkes Booth that theatergoers have come to know from photographs in the history books, Veenstra nonetheless charms with a youthful and impetuous demeanor. But he fails to convince when revealing John Wilkes' darker side or when the character talks about his patriotism for the South and disgust with Lincoln's policies.

As Mary, who was once an actress herself, Copeland delivers a muted and sympathetic performance that sparks beautifully when Mary can no longer stand Edwin's jealousy. The fourth member of the ensemble, Brian Wallace, delivers fine work in several supporting roles, most notably a dolt of a companion to John Wilkes.

However, the most fascinating pieces of the show are its production elements. Scenic designer Steven Capone has created a marvelously expressionistic set, with skewed walls and a chandelier that juts out over the stage at an oblique angle. Projection designer C. Andrew Bauer provides the surreal videos that provide audiences with a glimpse into Edwin's fevered imagination, and lighting designer Charles Foster provides an appropriately eerie atmosphere as necessary.