Off-Broadstreet Theater in Hopewell is celebrating the opening of its 30th season with a complex and amusing comedy, “Moon Over the Brewery.” The work of Bruce Graham, the play dates to the late 1980s and has been widely performed throughout the country. Its popularity is helped by the fact that there are only four characters, a serious plus when budgets are tight.
Amanda Waslyk is a precocious 14-year-old who lives with her single mother, Miriam Waslyk, and her imaginary friend, Randolph, a sly young adult who’s a natty dresser. Although Miriam works as a waitress by day in her coal mine town, painting is her passion. She turns to it after getting home from work, using a headlamp to make up for the loss of daylight. Unsurprisingly, the walls are covered with paintings — all featuring a big white moon over a blue landscape — that she wishes she could sell.
Although no other houses are visible on stage and the word “isolated” comes to mind, it seems clear that the Waslyk house is part of a community, and not a wealthy one at that. It also seems that Amanda’s control of the household is threatened by the appearance of Warren Zimmerman, a mailman, who initially seems too undistinguished to pose a threat, yet looks likely to win over the mother who is working on a painting for him, “Moon Over the Brewery.”
The play seems a good choice for OBT. It may not be profound, but there’s enough going on to keep the audience involved. Will Miriam accept Warren Zimmerman as a serious suitor? And what can be done about Randolph? It becomes clear that despite the fact that she created him herself, Amanda cannot control the imagined presence. Will she mature enough to dispense with him? Will she and her mother have enough money to get by? There is clearly a danger with this sort of plot becoming mawkish. But in Graham’s hands that doesn’t happen.
These were clearly the right actors for these roles, and all four of them deserve credit for handling their roles with skill and grace. Two of the four, Kyla Mostello Donnelly, who plays Miriam, and Jaedi Gambatese, who plays Amanda, are newcomers to the company. Donnelly has been seen locally on the Kelsey stage in “Nunsense” and “Oliver.” Gambatese acted in various school productions and was a dancer in the movie “Unfaithful” with Richard Gere. She is now a student at the College of New Jersey, concentrating on elementary education and history.
The two male actors, Steve Lobis, who plays Warren Zimmerman, a nice-guy loser, and Gary Welbrock, who plays Randolph, are OBT veterans. Lobis was seen at OBT in “Man of La Mancha,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Wait until Dark,” “Twilight of the Golds,” and “Run for Your Wife” Welbrock’s OBT history includes “Stardust,” “Cheatin’ Hearts,” and “Putting it Together.”
Much will seem familiar about this production, but one thing that is not is that Bob Thick is not the director: he was responsible for the design of the set and the lighting. Ann Raymond designed the costumes. Some of them — the ones intended for Randolph — are out of fantasy land.
Kathy Garofano is the director here. Although she has also directed at Playmasters, Langhorne Players, and Shakespeare 70, OBT regulars would probably remember her success with major and leading roles in “The Game’s Afoot,” “Peg O’ My Heart,” and “Broadway Bound.” There has to be a certain curiosity as to how a director other than Bob Thick will manage at OBT; Garofano seems to have succeeded in keeping things moving and keeping them clear in the best Off-Broadstreet tradition.
Moon over the Brewery, Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. Through Saturday, February 8, Friday and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Desserts served an hour before show. $27 to $31.50. 609-466-2766 or www.off-broadstreet.com.