James Haigney: The Woman Standing on the Moon

The Woman Standing on the Moon
James Haigney
Urban Stages, NY
September 16 - October 2, 2011

In Revelations 12.1, a pregnant woman is standing on the moon, about to give birth while a red dragon waits nearby to devour her newborn. In a similar way, so goes The Woman Standing on the Moon, a new play by James Haigney. Just as the Book of Revelations is worth reading, the play is decidedly worth seeing, bearing in mind that neither the biblical dream story nor this play are what one might call "feel-good" experiences. 

The Woman Standing on the Moon is an ambitious multi-level work. It is not always pleasant to witness, but this testing of the audience's endurance pays off with an ending that somehow brings the drama full circle.

Mary has ventured with Jack, her decorative Australian boyfriend, to North Carolina, to make a documentary about Randy, a Bible-thumping good old boy who is an emotionally damaged Iraq War veteran. Randy is still recovering from his best friend's death in Iraq. Mary and Jack are staying at the home of Mary's former husband, David, a community college history teacher, who years earlier had plucked Mary for marriage from among his students. David still loves Mary. Mary and David's only daughter was killed in a bus crash while on an outing with David's father. Randy has recently married Belle, who is pregnant. Belle appears to be psychic, speaks and listens to her unborn daughter, and uncannily knows things. This distresses Randy, and in turn Mary. Randy thinks such things are of the devil. Mary just thinks Belle is nuts.

This is an intense drama in which Mary, David, and Randy display the symptoms of damaged people who have made no peace with their various traumas. Arguments and confrontations undulate throughout the action. Mary is very angry. David drinks a great deal and pines for the return of Mary. Randy appears borderline psychotic, quoting the Bible, singing and playing the guitar, and lashing out towards the "infidel" Arabs. Jack is not damaged, just vapid and self-impressed. Belle, although she is a mildly New Age loon, is the only apparently healthy-minded character in the pack.

Nearing the play's conclusion, as all the intersecting emotions and plot points reach a fever pitch, Mary is forced to confront her demons as she never has before. Though the ending is horrific, it left me with a devastating sense of closure.

The players are all true professionals and their performances are uniformly excellent. Christa Kimlico Jones, as Mary, gives an exceedingly intense performance as an irritable and non-introspective woman, tortured by the death of her daughter. James Patrick Earley does a fine turn as the snide and wounded professor. Steven Michael Lang is perfect as the superficial boy-toy. Taylor Flowers as the genial/violent Randy was more than a little bone-chilling. Sarah Saunders as Belle gives an exceptionally fine and poignant performance. Ms. Saunders's subtle and nuanced characterization showed exceptional dramatic skill and insight. The direction by Bernard Cummings is fluid and masterful.

The Woman Standing on the Moon left me with a deep sympathy for those who are unconsciously controlled by their unexamined lives. The funereal quiet of the audience at the final curtain indicated to me that the powerful impression the play made on me may well have been universally shared. - Jay Reisberg


Mr. Reisberg is a UCLA film school grad, professional singer, comedian, assistant to the founder of New York's Love Street Theatre, and bon vivant at large.