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Glimpses of the Moon

This sprightly chamber musical, adapted from an Edith Wharton novel, suits the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room perfectly. logo
Stephen Plunkett and Patti Murin in Glimpses of the Moon
(© Katie Rosin)
In Taljei Levin and John Mercurio's sprightly chamber musical, Glimpses of the Moon, now playing Monday nights the at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room, Susy Branch (the gamine Patti Murin) and Nick Lansing (stalwart Stephen Plunkett through February 11, Michael Minarek thereafter) -- cute kids, both -- appear to have a lot in common, including rich friends in high places and a taste for the finer things in life.

Unfortunately, their shared traits also include chronic penury. So the only hope they have of keeping up with the moneyed New York crowd they favor -- it's roaring 1922, after all -- is to bag a well-endowed spouse. While plotting their upward marital mobility, Susy has a bright idea: Why don't the two of them tie the knot and coast for a year on the pawnable gifts and proffered honeymoon hideaways? Plus, the subterfuge will afford them each time and opportunity to proceed with Plan A.

The story, loosely adapted from an Edith Wharton bestseller of the time, perfectly suits the Oak Room, where it's easy to imagine real denizens of the Jazz Age gaily cavorting while complimenting themselves on their "modern" outlook. In an interesting conceit, there's even a built-in flashback wherein a celebrity guest star (upcoming are Susan Lucci, Alison Fraser, and Joyce DeWitt, among others) serenades the young lovers, urging them to make the most of their moment.

Susy's scheme proceeds swimmingly, with just a few minor ethical snags -- such as whether it's considered proper to pinch an absent host's Cuban cigars. And it seems that eager as Nick was to embrace a majorly dicey proposition, he is full of scruples when it comes to such minor punctilios. Meanwhile, sweet Suzy soon finds herself sunk ever deeper in moral murk, as her generous friend Ellie Vanderlyn (Beth Glover, the very embodiment of a worldly society matron) inveigles her into covering up for an indiscretion.

Optimal casting enhances this production. Daren Kelly is perfect as Nelson Vanderlyn, Ellie's benighted soon-to-be-ex spouse; and his rendition of "Tell Her I'm Happy" is genuinely touching, even as -- or perhaps because -- you can see the final twist coming. Glenn Peters is trenchant as a raffish, perennially impecunious British third son who unexpectedly comes into his own (and immediately starts unleashing his inner martinet). Laura Jordan is a monomaniacal riot as a nerdy, bush-jacketed Bryn Mawr archaeology buff whose romantic arsenal is limited to a couple of ancient Greek potsherds.

There's never any great doubt as to who will end up with whom, but the show's creators -- aided by Lisa Zinni's era-celebratory costuming and Denis Jones' cleverly compacted choreography -- conjure such a charmed world, it seems a pity it must evanesce like the bubbles off a gin fizz.

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