"The Moors," says Lacy Post, directing the play for University Theatre, is "period-ish, for the sake of the comedy. It is also contemporary. The story could be then or now, and that is part of its playfulness but also its truth."
Set on the bleak English moors, Jen Silverman's dark comedy is the tale of two sisters and a new arrival that upsets the status quo. Critic J. Peter Bergman, writing in The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass., says they are "characters that remind of us of other people we've been aware of: Agatha and Huldey, two sisters living in a rundown manse on the moors, just like the Brontë sisters; an impressionable governess (take your pick from Jane Eyre or Henry James' ghost tale); a mastiff considered dangerous (Sherlock Holmes and the Baskervilles) but who is a lovesick puppy; a devastating maidservant or servants (Mrs. Danvers in 'Rebecca'); and a Moor Hen. Note to audience: this is a very funny play about a very savage subject -- jealousy and its inherent depravity."
Post, a Tulsa native who spent more than a decade living and working in New York City, says audiences don't need to know all that. They just need to "recognize the stuffiness of that time is something we are allowing you to laugh at! We borrow from the time but mostly for the satirical opportunity it provides."
Post came to the UA's master's program in directing "through a friend who attended it and recommended it to me. I make theater," she explains, "because I believe it has the power to expose truth, challenge opinions, and change lives. I love this medium because it is about collaboration and exploration.
"I chose this play because I thought it was hilarious and quirky and it made me think," Post goes on. "I was intrigued by the story because it surprised me. I thought it was a good fit for student actors because it is about growth and the impact your environment has on the ability to do so."
"The Moors" premiered at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Conn., in February 2016. The author of "Collective Rage: A Play In 5 Betties"; "Witch"; and "The Roommate," Silverman has received the Yale Drama Series Award, the Helen Merrill Award, the Lilly Award, as well as grants and fellowships from The New York Foundation for the Arts, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Playwrights of New York.
"Whether it's 'The Moors' or 'Collective Rage' or 'Wink,' these plays hinge on characters contending with desire and loneliness and fear and transformation," Silverman told American Theatre. "These characters are reaching moments in their lives where they're saying: I must change, how do I do it? Can I do it? And so for that reason alone, it's hard for me to think of these as style pieces or genre pieces, because they're stories about human hope and failure and struggle and change, and of course my understanding of those things is personal and lived."
"I look at this story as a cautionary tale -- what happens to someone when kindness and human connection is withheld," muses director Post. "How dark can it get when someone is pushed to extremity, and is there a moment when we as a society have the ability to do something that might change the outcome?
"Directing this play was a dream of mine pre-pandemic, and doing so after two years into covid has come with unique challenges," she adds. "But the reward has been finding new ways to appreciate the impact isolation has on an individual -- it hits differently now. And the biggest reward is seeing this company meet every challenge and work twice as hard to make it all come together. I'm extremely proud of them."