Review: 'Moon Over the Brewery' at the Westport Community Theatre

Tara Kennedy

  • OnStage Connecticut Critic / Connecticut Critics Circle

Imaginary friends are a common theme in the life of a child; they often appear when a child is lonely and looking for a playmate. But when one appears seemingly out of the blue every time a new man shows up in your mother’s life, and the child is now in junior high school, that may be a little less charming, unless it’s Randolph in “Moon Over the Brewery.”

Precocious whiz-tween Amanda (Katelyn Ferrari) has a penchant for intimidating the heck out of her hippie artist mother Miriam’s (Jessie Gilbert) potential beaux, with the assistance of her invisible professorial sidekick, Randolph (Jeff Pliskin). Mother and daughter could not be any different: daughter balances the checkbook while mother gives away her paintings for practically nothing. One Christmas, Miriam gives her daughter a stereo and Amanda says that all she wanted was a speed reading course; you can imagine how well these two get along. Then along comes Warren (Marc Hartog), an unassuming mail carrier who has been carrying a torch for Miriam for nearly 5 years, having lunch every day at the diner where she works to get to know her. But when Amanda and Randolph try to scare him away, they find out that Warren doesn’t play by the same rules as Miriam’s other suitors, causing conflicting feelings for Amanda: does she placate her needs so her life remains the same, or does she think about her mother and her need to have someone to share her life with?

Mr. Pliskin is the perfect well-dressed troublemaker in Randolph and his quippy delivery is splendid; I got in trouble with the person in front of me for my way-too-loud laughing, but I couldn’t help myself.  Ms. Ferrari does an excellent job with a difficult role for any high school freshman (adults commonly play this role) and I was impressed with her ability to portray the range of emotions that Amanda experiences as she comes of age. Mr. Hartog is great as warm, unpretentious Warren who manages to break through to the sarcastic Amanda. Ms. Gilbert also does a nice job as the flaky, exasperated Miriam who just wants peace in her house and love in her life.

Set design by Kevin Pelkey was simple to highlight the paintings by Miriam; the floor painting work for the outside slate tile patio was well done; it looked real from where I was sitting. The costume design by Rosanne Nelson was particularly well done and plays a significant role. In Amanda’s imagination, Randolph dresses as the characters in whichever book Amanda happens to be reading, so we get some funny costumes for Randolph, especially when Amanda starts reading “Shogun.” But it’s the subtle coordination between Amanda and Randolph’s costumes that was a lovely touch. Also, Miriam’s clothing captured her bohemian spirit well. 

This is a truly sweet and enjoyable play and I am sorry to review it in its last weekend because this show and its delightful cast deserve large audiences. I wish my schedule would have allowed me to see this earlier, so positive press could draw more audience members to see “Moon Over the Brewery.”

Photo: Westport Community Theatre