Michael McKeever is a brilliantly funny writer and if you doubt that statement just saunter over to the Arsht Center and catch Zoetic's world premiere production of McKeever's Moscow. You'll know you're getting close to the theatre by the laughter flying around on Biscayne Boulevard.
Hooked to Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters, Moscow has perfectly acerbic Irene Adjan as Lorelei, the older of two sisters, and, flitting and fluttering from man to man and art to art, Margery Lowe as younger sister Lucy. And the symbolic third sister? Devoted, defiant Lela Elam as Olivia, lifetime house maid and baby raiser to Lorelei.
The sisters live in a grand Coral Gables estate, they're third generation, and play out their story on Sean McClelland's realistic Spanish courtyard set. It's 1962, the Russians are coming, and Lorelei, heavily up the stump, is pouring down the Manhattans, puffing the cigs and knocking Lucy for being a hare-brained gadabout who goes out of her way to make everyone feel good. Olivia has just resigned to help her dying father run his little store in Overtown, raising Lorelei's blood pressure and making her meaner than a snake flailing preacher. So goody two-shoes Lucy comes to the rescue, offering the servant/slave services of her Cuban boy friend's refugee sister.
I've got to confess here that no matter how much I was enjoying Adjan, Elam and Lowe I was eagerly waiting for Elena Maria Garcia's entrance as Inez, the replacement maid. Consummate comedian Garcia made the wait worthwhile. Speaking no English, clanking with jewelry and not knowing the meaning of house work, much less ever having attempted it, she furiously fights a bucket of water and a long handled mop in an hilarious Texas death match, showing moves no lady should ever attempt.
Act One of this two and half hour piece ends with Olivia still hanging around and helping Lorelei, who, sprawled in a chaise longue by the flowing court yard fountain, gives noisy birth to her fourth kid as air raid sirens blare and kiddies are taught to duck and hide.
The second act and it's 1964. Inez now speaks Spanglish, Olivia is watching over her still dying father, and Tom Wahl as Clinton, Lorelei's husband, is building 1-95 over Overtown. Lucy meets a young Cuban refugee (Luis Restrepo) and Inez helps him settle in Miami. And here, despite director Stuart Meltzer's best efforts, Moscowslows down. McKeever is a sophisticated humorist but when he leaves the lighthearted, things tend to flat spot. Cuban/Miami history is related, Olivia returns, seeking to renew the sisterly relationship but is spurned meanly by Lorelei and denied help by Clinton when she begs to have her father's store saved from the bulldozers of I-95. Lucy sees herself for who she really is. Sirens are cranked once more and Lorelei, still swilling Manhattans and puffing cigarettes, is pregnant again.
Moscow is well worth seeing for its pluses: the acting, the directing and the humor. Sean McClelland's set, Luke Klingberg's lighting, Meltzer's sound and the costumes by Alberto Arroyo are all of the best.
Moscow does need cutting in both acts, but please, and smack me in the forehead with a beer can, don't touch the funny stuff.
Photos courtesy of the Adrienne Arsht Center/Photos by Justin Namon
Catch it at the Arsht Center through April 15. 1300 N. Biscayne Boulevard, Miami. 305-949-6722 http://www.arshtcenter.org