Review: 'Bomber’s Moon' shining brightly at the Raue

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In May of last year, Williams St. Repertory's LAB Series presented a dramatic reading of a new play by NYC-based playwright Deborah Yarchun. That play, "Bomber's Moon," a tense two-character romantic drama that takes place in London during the Blitz, is now receiving its world premiere as a fully staged production at the Raue Center, and this Moon shines as brightly as the stars in the theater's ceiling.

First, a bit of historical background is in order for those like me who may not be as knowledgeable about World War II as we should be. As detailed in an article by production dramaturg Fiona Kyle in the printed program for the show, the Germans’ nighttime bombings of London — the Blitz — began in September of 1940, with an estimated 30,000 people killed, 51,000 seriously injured, and 2,000,000 homes damaged or destroyed. The phrase “Bomber’s Moon,” coined during WWII, referred to a night with a full moon that made it easier for German aviators to find and bomb their targets.

The play takes place five days into the Blitz, as two very different individuals seek shelter in the basement of a music store: Katrin (Maeghan Looney), an understandably scared American woman who had visited the store in more pleasant times and who has a complicated relationship status, and Lloyd (David Moreland), a British comic singer and air raid warden whose background is also a bit of a mystery that’s revealed gradually in the play’s five scenes.

In this Williams St. Repertory production, audience members are escorted onto the stage as they arrive, entering an amazing set designed by Eric Luchen that immerses the audience in the environment of the music shop’s basement. On all sides are cement walls with jagged tops that give the sense of previous bombing damage; in the back center of the set is a single small window to the outside world of London; and wooden beams are suspended above both the stage area and the audience, realistically swaying during scenes with loud, nearby bombing attacks.

I was similarly impressed with the period-appropriate items included by Props Master Jonathan Berg-Einhorn, including half of an upright piano, numerous other musical instruments, sheet music, glassware, and more. And thanks to Sound Designer Lindsay Wolf, the sounds (e.g., explosions, approaching bombs, sirens) emanate from all parts of the stage and seating area, helping the audience feel the same fear Katrin and Lloyd are experiencing.

As directed by the masterful Michele Vazquez, and with intense fight/intimacy choreography by Claire Yearman, both Looney and Moreland do outstanding work, showing us the strong emotions of fear, desire, and compassion and also more light-hearted moments than you might expect (sample Lloyd line: “Gallows humor always bombs”).

I found myself caring deeply about these two people. I looked forward to seeing the changes in their relationship and to finding out more about who they were in the world beyond this basement. I also enjoyed the musical ability shown by both actors; if you see the play, watch for a scene in which Moreland plays three different instruments and Looney ably plays the piano.

The heavy British accent Moreland used did take some getting used to; I missed several of his lines in the first scene. The only other opening-night concerns I had: 1) the sound effects are so loud at times that the dialogue (e.g., Katrin listing “moments” she’s been keeping track of) wasn’t audible; 2) some action takes place with one or both characters laying on the floor very close to the front row of seats, and it couldn’t be easily seen by those in higher rows — some audience members in the top row tried to compensate by standing up.

The bottom line, though, is that a world premiere adult drama of this caliber only comes around once in a blue moon, so don't miss the appearance of this Moon. Just arrive early enough to get a front-row seat so you can truly embrace all aspects of this totally immersive piece of theater.

• Paul Lockwood is a past president of TownSquare Players (TSP) and an occasional community theater actor, appearing in over 30 plays, musicals, and revues since he and his wife moved to Woodstock in 2001. Recent shows include Once Upon a Mattress, On Golden Pond, 9 to 5: The Musical, A Christmas Carol (2014, 2016), and Into the Woods. He's also performed in dramatic readings and is playing Abner Dillon in Woodstock Musical Theatre Company's production of 42nd Street, running weekends through Oct. 21 at the Woodstock Opera House.