It is a distinct possibility, I suspect, that many will be perplexed by Reston Community Players' production of Jean Anouilh's "Ring Around the Moon." Full of twists, turns and in-one-door-out-the-other antics, the farce about love and all its complexities is as unsettling as, well, being in love. The audience must pay strict attention to the goings-on, including manipulations, blind alleys, battling wordplay and shifting hearts. Because it's a long three acts, the results can be head-spinning.
Which is exactly why a theatergoer should make a point to see this ambitious and enjoyable, though sometimes out of control, play. It's a nice feeling in this age of brain-dead entertainment to actually have to think hard about what's going on, to try to figure out all the possible configurations and to actively care about the outcome.
The story concerns a group of rich people having a masquerade ball in the spring. All are smart, witty and profoundly bored, setting the stage for some wicked tricks they will play on one another throughout the night.
The mixed-up mood echoes the flim-flam doings of Shakespeare, particularly "A Midsummer Night's Dream." This time the principals and core of the comedy are twin brothers -- one good and one bad.
The bad boy Hugo hires the lovely Isabelle, a poor dancer from Paris, to come to the ball in disguise to wreck the virtuous Frederic's upcoming nuptials to the spoiled and wealthy Diana. Rich people like Diana are, Hugo claims with curled-lip disgust for his own kind, contemptible.
The real reason, of course, is love: Hugo's for Diana, Isabelle's for Hugo, Frederic's for Isabelle. And the trance caused by the full moon is contagious, going beyond the principals -- everyone is involved in some sort of love triangle, square or circle that desperately needs sorting out.
It certainly can get confusing, and often does, especially at the start as one tries to figure out what is going on. But Reston manages to pull out right when things look as if they're headed for a crash, mostly because of accomplished acting by principals combined with solid back-up by other characters.
As Hugo and Frederic, Randy Jones is devilish and rakish at one moment and sweet and endearing the next. His ability to change his personality with ease is commendable and convincing.
As Isabelle, Alexa Greco is spunky and beautiful; she would steal any heart that turned her way. And, though Barbara Wilmer seems a little old as Diana, she snaps her lines with grand bitchiness as a poor little rich girl. The rest of the troupe is well-cast, too, without a weak performance in the lot.
A quibble could be made with Reston's decision to reset the play in 2025, instead of the roaring '20s, when it is traditionally set. The update gives the group a change to show off some wild costumes and have some fun with a pair of hilarious android servants, but that's about it. Director Don Paul Smith says they switched the time setting because "no matter how the world changes around us, people's hopes, desires and problems seem to stay pretty much the same."
That much is true for romance in the past, present or future. At its heart, "Ring Around the Moon" tells a simple and timeless tale of falling in love by the light of the moon. And half the fun -- and heartache, of course -- is getting there.