Review: Dive deep into a ‘Half Moon Bay’ at the Cherry Lane Theatre

Asya Danilova

  • OnStage New York Critic

NEW YORK NY - A guy walks into a bar and sees a girl. This sounds like the beginning of joke or the start of a Saturday night. This is also the beginning of Half Moon Bay, produced by Lesser America, currently playing in the Studio of Cherry Lane Theater. This play, written by Dan Moyer, charmingly flirts and teases with you right from the start, much like Annie (Keilly McQuail) and Gabe (Gabriel King) flirt with each other at the bar of the bowling alley. 

The awkwardness of non-funny jokes, the silliness, and the bravery rising from the increasing level of alcohol endears both of the characters to the audience immediately. They share a couple of drinks, and in a couple of days, they share a night of drinking more, talking, dancing and making love.  

The very light and down to earth writing by Moyer makes you chuckle at times and laugh out loud at others. Much like the characters themselves, the play shies away after bringing up a serious topic and a joke immediately follows. But hidden beneath the jokes and goofing around are two wounded souls trying to connect and find support in each other. 

There is a strong magnetic bond between Keilly McQuail and Gabriel King, to which the audience gets drawn immediately. Guided by the director Jess Chayes, those two achieve an incredible synergy like a couple of dancers who can intuitively feel the movement of the other before it’s even made. There are a few actual dance scenes in the play that are hilarious. 

I would argue that almost all the movement on stage is reminiscent of a dance in the sense that actors never settle in their positions at any given time even, if they are just sitting at the bar. When one of the final scenes is unwinding, Gabe and Annie stand in the middle of the room opposite each other and talk without changing positions for a while, we can still see the compressed energy in McQuail’s rounded shoulders and tense fingers. 

The ease of Gabe’s movements and the constant charged state of Annie probably has something to do with the fact that the characters are drunk or hung-over throughout the play. It is carried to the audience and you start feeling slightly buzzed yourself.          

Half Moon Bay is full of poetry, which comes at you out of nowhere, and numbs your legs for a bit. Fresh, sexy and funny, some of these lines are still rolling in my head like a hard candy. “What did you think of me when you first saw me?” asks Annie. “I want to take a wet bathing suite off this girl, one piece, slowly peal it down”.  

The cinematic lighting design by Mike Inwood is as simple as it is beautiful. The blue and purple coloring of the bar in the second scene (scenic design by Reid Thompson) highlights the atmosphere already set by lights of the juke box and neon signs.  

Half Moon Bay can be seen (and highly recommended to!) in Cherry Lane theater at 38 Commerce Street, New York, NY. Tickets and information here: