Christian Jost, Contributing Critic - Washington D.C.
It’s risky business for a theatre company to stage unknown/new works. There is no telling how the audience will react. In the case of The Value of Moscow (written by Amy Dellagiarino), the risk payed off. Dark Horse was able to put forward a very entertaining, fresh piece of theatre. The plot is described as “Three grown "adult" sisters are thrust back into living together as a last resort after their various lives have fallen apart”. It makes many allusions to Chekhov’s play Three Sisters and takes inspiration from many of his other works as well. Just like a true Chekhovian work, the play deals with numerous serious events/themes but is, at its core, a comedy of life. Part farce and part family drama, the show has something for everybody!
The cast is led by Sarah Akers as Emily (the oldest sister) who absolutely steals the show. Her one-liners and zingers are delivered flawlessly, and she frequently got the biggest laughs from the audience. Despite her comedic dialogue she also finds moments of real heart and compassion in the piece, making Emily a very compelling character. Being on stage for almost 80 straight minutes required dedicated focus, and Akers was up to that challenge. Rose, the middle child, is responsible for many moments of comedic relief and tension breaking. Two things Jessie Burns accomplished without fail. Her role required the most energy of the sisters and Burns always brought it. Burn’s character had to go from hurt to happy to “in-love” to panicked all within the span of 5 minutes. It takes a very committed performer to do that and still make the character feel authentic.
The youngest sister, Clara, was played to perfection by Cat Gilbert. Her character is experiencing the most difficult time of all the sisters and needed to have strong dramatic chops. The drama came from Gilbert with ease, making her moments of comedy that much more effective. Gilbert’s character dealt with many triggering themes/events and needed to be played with respect for those who deal with these issues, and Cat did that is spades. The cast was rounded out by Andrew Farms (Cliff) and Ricardo Padilla (Jimbo), who both brought big energy to their supporting roles.
The direction by Natasha Parnian was very effective in the small space, still allowing the actors to move naturally even though they were quite constricted. The play is 80 minutes of continuous action, which is no easy task for any director. Parnian took this challenge and made sure there was never a dull moment. Characters always had something authentic to be doing and the play never seemed static. When there are no weak performances, it is usually a sign of stellar direction. Nothing about this play was easy. There were no blackouts, no intermission, nothing to naturally allow the audience to lose focus. The play demanded the audience’s attention, second after second, and Parnian made each second count.
There are several more weekends to view this entertaining show! Both in Herndon and The Planes Va. More info can be found here: https://www.darkhorseva.com/shows