Mooning the '50s

Stages' production of Hugh Herbert's 1951 script The Moon Is Blue is fast, funny and flawless. William Hardy's expansive direction is rich with sophisticated nuance and impeccable timing. John Gow's retro set is gorgeous. And best of all, the small cast is smart, joyful and very talented.

Even so, this woman-bashing show is hard to like.
The comedy concerns a romance between Patty O'Neill (Lisa Singerman) and Donald Gresham (Dominique Gerard). Patty is a young "sweet little idiot" television actress. Donald is a serious architect who makes a lot of money. They meet in a drugstore and go back to his place for dinner. Once there, they do not have sex. This not having sex is at the crux of this play; think of it as a retro just-say-no thing.

Patty, we are repeatedly told, believes that it's better for a "good girl" to be "preoccupied with sex than occupied with sex." Donald is a "man of honor." He's also a bit of a prig who holds to such notions as "no one in their right mind would mind being called a virgin, whether they were one or not." One assumes that he is speaking about women, even if Donald's own sexual history is never established. We do know that Patty is, without a doubt, a virgin.

After a rich, middle-aged tomcat by the name of David Slater (James Huston) comes on the scene, Donald doesn't know what to think. David is a wise lush who likes to "knock women about" a bit. Mostly, he understands just how much Patty and David love each other.

But Donald and Patty get all out of whack. Patty -- the "sweet little dope," the "kid," the "idiot" "screwball" who "talks too much," the "little fool" who's "nuts" and who has to leave the room when the "man talk" starts -- makes Donald steaming mad. He just happens to walk in on Patty as she kisses David. But all she was doing was thanking David for the $600 he gave her just for being a good girl. They weren't really doing anything. Really. See?

The absurd twists that keep the plot going are another reason not to like the play, but the endless woman-bashing is enough.

Eventually Patty gets her architect. After all, she is a good retro girl, the kind who can't figure out how much 40 into 600 is without help from her guy; she's the kind who cooks a yummy steak dinner and then scrubs the pans.

You know those good '50s girls. They were the ones who grew up, burned their bras, got divorced, marched for equal rights and stricter domestic violence laws and realized what a stupid, dangerous lie the '50s were.

The Moon Is Blue runs through June 6 at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, (713)52-


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