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The Moonstone at Lifeline Theatre | Theater review

Robert Kauzlaric’s adaptation of Wilkie Collins’s detective novel demonstrates the pleasure of being strung along.

Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett
C. Sean Piereman, Kaitlin Byrd and Ann Sonneville in Lifeline Theatre's The Moonstone

Based on Collins’s 1868 detective novel, The Moonstone smacks a bit of Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, another unsettling mystery that strings you along for hours before coming to its rather underwhelming and nonsensical final reveal. But here, as in Marty’s work, you’d be hard-pressed to really mind. For it’s the stringing along itself—the shocking discoveries before sudden blackouts—that makes the piece such a blue-balling pleasure to watch.

The mystery in Moonstone begins when an aristocratic British uncle bequeaths his niece, Rachel, a Far Eastern moonstone, rumored by its Oriental keepers to have entrancing powers. The very night Rachel (a fetching Ann Sonneville) receives the stone, it disappears from her bedroom. But by whose hand, and why? Through the eyes of Rachel’s family servant, Gabriel (Sean Sinitski), we watch the mysteries accrue at her family’s country manor. The moonstone-hunt then relocates to London—and switches narratorial hands several more times—as death, financial intrigue, and threatening, balletic Hindus spring up around Rachel’s friends and family.

Kauzlaric uses the shifting narratorial device too cautiously, burdening potentially seamless action with explanations of who’ll say what, and why. But the slick production smooths over these edges. Bill Morey’s flamboyant period costumes (which mix shades to splashy effect) add a mesmerizing touch of chic to every scene. Brandon Wardell’s lights emphasize climactic moments with pleasurable ham-fistedness. Even Ian Zywica’s scenic design (which features an odd combination of amateurish paint jobs and multitiered, crafted cleverness) sets the right mood: self-serious, maybe, but fashioned to tell a ripping good tale.

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