After two years offstage due to the pandemic, the Dramatic Repertory Company is back with a production that visits a “savage place.” Fortunately, the play is also savagely funny.

Co-directors Sally Wood and Keith Powell Beyland have deftly assembled a standout cast of local theater regulars and put them in artful motion for “The Moors,” a dark comedy by Jen Silverman that updates some of the themes found in the literary works of the famous Brontë sisters. Still-salient issues of gender, class, diversity and all forms of love are touched upon, as six characters find life on the English moors to be a dangerous challenge.

Set in the mid-19th century, the play initially introduces us to sisters Agatha (Megan Cross) and Huldey (Anna Gravél), parson’s daughters who live essentially alone (but for their unseen brother who is imprisoned in the attic) and a maid.

Tough-minded Agatha asserts that she has achieved a sort of “balance” in her life by believing “There’s nothing in this world more honest and dependable than self-interest.” The less assured and perhaps unbalanced Huldey longs for a life of excitement and literary fame in the world beyond the moors. But she is subdued, at least initially, by the domineering Agatha.

Enter governess Emilie (Kat Moraros), whom Agatha has hired for uncertain purposes since there seems to be no child about. Rounding out the human roles is put-upon maid Marjory (Phoebe Parker), who is obedient but oddly detached and growing in resentment about her place in the household’s power dynamics.

A somewhat forlorn moor-hen (Hannah Daly) and a philosophical mastiff (Nate Stephenson) add to the comedy in “The Moors.”

As if these characters are not enough (and perhaps they are), there’s a philosophical mastiff (Nate Stephenson) and a somewhat forlorn moor-hen (Hannah Daly) to provide further comedic and metaphoric scope to the tale.

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Each actor is given the opportunity to add depth to their roles during the many fine moments in the just under two-hour play, including intermission. Cross cautiously opens her Agatha to the entreaties of Moraros’ Emilie, whose wide eyes see more than the others think they do. Gravél’s expressive face shows her Huldey to be more impactful than her extended family thinks while Parker’s maid awaits her turn to try and shake things up.

Some of the best scenes entail pairings of actors. Gravél and Parker are hilarious as their characters plot together. Cross and Moraros turn up the heat on Agatha and Emilie’s growing attraction while planning a new addition to the household.

Stephenson and Daly touchingly try to find a meeting point in their characters’ obviously different ways. “Frustration and ecstasy are nearly the same sensation,” the mastiff desperately declares at one point. Moraros and Gravél each get to sing a bit, as well.

Eye-catching costumes by Heidi Kendrick fit the period comfortably. The uncredited multilevel set put together in an industrial space provided by Kendrick & Bloom, a design and building company, adds just enough décor (as well as the subject matter for a good running joke).

All the elements served to engage the large and enthusiastic opening night crowd for this very entertaining return by the Dramatic Rep.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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