Just Our Luck
8/25-28 • 8 p.m.
Cape Fear Playhouse • 613 Castle St.
$12 • 471-5690
Henry David Thoreau once urged, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” Few people exemplify this quotation like Tony Moore. For the last 10 years, he has steadily written and produced original work, including “Sides!” the live sitcom at the Browncoat Pub and Theatre. ByChance Productions, his theatre company, is reprising “Just Our Luck” for his 10th anniversary show. It takes a lot of chutzpah to write a show, rent a theater and assemble a cast. When someone keeps trying again and again, sharpening, it is an incredible process to witness. Moore has been a special gem for Wilmington theatre audiences for the last decade as we have watched him mature and perfect his craft.
The two-act play opens with a fight. Noah (Michael Vaughn) comes home with flowers for Donna (Heather Dodd) the live-in girlfriend, who is in the process of moving out and leaving him. Where she is going is unclear, since, apparently, she woke up and began packing that morning.
Enter Austin (Tony Moore) and Vicky (Amber Sheets), Noah’s older brother and his fiancée. Bridezilla, we soon learn, has nothing on Donna. She has been attending weddings that are not hers to take notes, specifically following the work ofwedding planner Maggie (Brandy Jones), who turns out to be Austin’s long lost love. No one (least of all Austin) is prepared to tell Vicky about his past with Maggie. She has been planning her wedding since she was 9. Now that she has found a groom, she is going to have the perfect storybook wedding.
As if life were not complicated enough, baby sister June (Beth Raynor) comes home with a man almost twice her age, Dallas (Michael Kahn). Austin and Noah find themselves confronted with the age-old problem: how to protect a teenager from herself.
I have an inborn concern when I see a writer acting in or directing a piece they have written. This is probably unfounded when I consider the number of performers who have written vehicles for their careers (Bogosian, Gray, Hughes). But Moore seems comfortable in the role of Austin, though Austin himself is in a very uncomfortable place. As we watch him fail to make good choices or succeed in any endeavor to straighten things out with his loved ones, we can’t help liking him. Moore’s writing has given him lots of opportunities to be really unlikable, but Moore’s acting makes the character kind, gentle and well-meaning.
Sheets as Vicky, the fiancée from hell is the most unlikable character onstage—even more so than Dallas, the creep chasing after 17-year-old June. Sheets is a bundle of bitchy, nervous energy that makes her extreme measures, like blowing a whistle and announcing that “Operation Vicky’s Wedding” is commencing, believable.
Kahn as Dallas is incredibly creepy. He makes one’s skin crawl from his entrance, grabbing June and kissing her passionately in front of both her brothers. He just gets more and more unlikable—most of all that awful hungry wolf smile of success as he follows June up to her bedroom.
For me, Raynor as June had my greatest sympathy. Probably it’s from having been a 17-year-old girl myself—absolutely convinced I was an adult able to make decisions on my own. Raynor really hit the notes of awkwardness mixed with pseudo sophistication that seem to exemplify that age. She wanders around in a low-cut, highly revealing dress, but she doesn’t know how to hold herself in such a get-up, nor does she have the panache to pull that off in the middle of the day. Oh, the awkward teenage years—who could possibly want to go back to that? And pity the adults in her life who love her so…
In his program note, Moore tells the audience he and ByChance Productions have come a long way—such that the first set was just a couch, a table and a front door. Production values have certainly gone up for them. They make good use of the set from Big Dawg Productions’ “Moonlight and Magnolias,” updating and changing it to make it modern and homey rather than a 1930’s office. It is believable as a small family home.
“Just our Luck” premiered in 2005; Moore has updated the script for the 2011 world with text messages and even a reference to the all-male production of “Steel Magnolias,” which in the show Austin takes Vicky to see. It was an wonderful inside joke for Wilmington theatre lovers: Moore had been in the cast of the highly anticipated, all-male production of “Steel Magnolias,” slated to play Truvy. Though canceled, it’s opening this weekend, too, in its all-female rendition.
It has been an interesting experience for our community to watch Moore grow as a playwright and director. Thank you, Tony, for 10 great years. I am looking forward to the next 10!