THE MOON IS BRIGHTER--an obituary, Van Chester Productions, at Urbus Orbis. AIDS has popularized memories of the dear departed as a topic for drama, but what separates art from therapy is the amount of interest such quasi-biographical eulogies hold for audiences outside the immediate circle of bereaved mourners. Its subtitle suggests that The Moon is Brighter--An Obituary will be replete with nostalgic mistiness, but playwright Sean Farrell rejects emotional egocentricity and slowly, patiently paints a portrait of a family as desperate to love one another as they are incapable of doing so. By the time we discover the significance of the play's title and its narrator, our empathy is assured.
This material requires a delicate touch, and James Holton, working again in collaboration with Farrell, gives a sensitively crafted performance, easing us in and out of flashbacks within flashbacks with the deftness of a dance master, though because all of the characters speak in Holton's baritone, we're sometimes momentarily disoriented. The results are strikingly reminiscent of Truman Capote (to whom Farrell's text pays homage at one point). --Mary Shen Barnidge