Monday, May 30, 2016

Cherry Lane Theatre Presents A New Play by Dan Moyer - "Half Moon Bay" - A Fascinating Two-Hander

Brooklyn-based playwright Dan Moyer has written a fascinating dark comedy entitled "Half Moon Bay." This new play is currently being presented at the Studio at Cherry Lane Theatre in the West Village. The play must close this Sunday, June 4th, and is well worth the trip to Commerce Street.

The action of the play is set in Santa Cruz, where the devastating earthquake in 1989 upended many lives.  So in watching the arcs of the two characters progress, it occurred to me that the two of them seemed to be perched on the edge of a precipice awaiting whatever tremors might come next.  Gabe (Gabriel King) is a nerdy guy desperately trying to win a league championship in bowling. During a break in the bowling action, he wanders into the bowling alley's bar and encounters Annie (Keilly McQuail) drinking alone. He delivers one of the weakest pick-up lines in history: "Want to come watch me bowl on Saturday night?" And we are off and running at observing these two lonely souls struggle to find a way to make connections with each other.

King and McQuail are perfectly cast in these roles, and superbly directed  by Jess Chayes. We first meet Annie sitting at the bar with her back to the audience.  Normally, this blocking might be considered ill-advised, but in this case, it foreshadows future developments.  Just as Annie only slowly reveals herself to the audience as she eventually turns to face Gabe, so she slowly reveals her inner self to him by fits and starts over the course of the two acts of this play.

Production values are excellent. Reid Thompson has designed a very adaptable set that serves as the bowling alley bar and then as Annie's apartment overlooking the bay. Lighting design by Mike Inwood suggests changes in mood and progression of time.   The soundscape by Janie Bullard includes intermittent sounds of bowling pins being toppled, as Annie's defenses are toppled by the nerdy persistence of Gabe's ham-fisted attempts at seduction. M. Meriwether Snipes costumes the two characters in ways that highlight their personalities.

A key component of the story is that both Gabe and Annie harbor secrets that they struggle to share with one another.  The mutual growth of their willingness to reveal more and more of themselves - fueled in part by booze and cocaine - makes this comedy poignant.

When we first meet Gabe, Annie is struck by his low brow rental bowling shoes, which she mocks. Later, his willingness to risk his brand new top-of-the-line shoes becomes a crucial point in the play. We learn about his history of gambling addiction, and the subsequent actions by his mother to take control of his finances.  The gambling theme is a thread that weaves itself throughout the growing relationship between Gabe and Annie.  They both choose to take risks and "roll the dice."  Given the fact that Gabe spends much of the play barefoot, the crap player's traditional mantra came to mind: "Baby needs a new pair of shoes"!

Keilly McQuail as Annie
Gabe King as Gabe
"Half Moon Bay"
by Dan Moyer
Cherry Lane Theatre
Through June 4th
Photo by Steven Pisano
As Annie's approach and avoidance tactics towards Gabe have him confused and shaken, she caves into his refusal to leave her apartment. She reveals why she is anxious for him to leave before the anticipated arrival of her mother. Her final instructions to Gabe as her mother is ringing the doorbell is touching, and has been earned.  We experience the denouncement of a series of Truth or Dare revelations that constitute syncretistic vulnerabilities.

This is a play that is worthy of your attention. Remember the name of Dan Moyer.  Add that name to a growing list of Brooklyn playwrights that are making their mark on contemporary theater: Annie Baker, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and now Moyer.

Cherry Lane Theatre Website

Cherry Lane's Company in Residence

A new play by Dan Moyer
Directed by Jess Chayes
Featuring Gabriel King* and Keilly McQuail*
After a chance encounter in the bar of a bowling alley, two broken hopefuls share a boozy, electric evening. Half Moon Bay is a darkly comic, raw new play about the lovers we take to bed and the strangers we find there in the morning.
May 12th - June 4th
Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce Street
Thursdays - Sundays at 8pm



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