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Theater review: 'What The Moon Saw...' at Son of Semele Theater

September 15, 2011 |  5:20 pm

Michael Nehring, left, and Brandon McCluskey in "What the Moon Saw"
The Little Match Girl swaps lives with a supermodel. The Tin Soldier is shipped off to Iraq. Hans Christian Andersen hitchhikes on the Pacific Coast Highway. “What the Moon Saw, or ‘I Only Appear to Be Dead,’” now at Son of Semele Theater, imagines the Danish author and his characters wandering a post-Sept. 11 America. Wandering, unfortunately, is the operative word, as Stephanie Fleischmann’s meandering fantasia never finds its way.

The play’s subtitle refers to Andersen’s habit of carrying a sign to warn hotel chambermaids he was sleeping, not a corpse.  And the design does evoke a liminal state, with Sarah Krainin’s candle-covered set, Daniel Corral’s eerie songs, and John Burton and Kristen Brennan Carmi’s inventive props (the PCH is particularly well-evoked). Under the direction of Matthew McCray, the cast performs with droll humor: Brandon McCluskey, as the sharp-nosed Andersen, stalks Manhattan for proof of his literary immortality; pint-sized Little Mermaid Maria Ashna ditches her scales with delicious petulance. 

But the show feels attenuated, even precious. The playwright, daughter of the late L.A. Philharmonic impresario Ernest Fleischmann, hasn’t found a dramatic focus around which to organize her ideas. The result is a muddled, sentimental meditation on wishing and its discontents.  


Talking with playwright Stephanie Fleischmann about her 9/11 play

-- Charlotte Stoudt

“What The Moon Saw, or ‘I Only Appear to Be Dead’” Son of Semele Theater, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays. 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26 and Oct 3. Ends Oct 9. $17-$25. Contact: Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes. 

Photo: Michael Nehring, left, and Brandon McCluskey. Credit: Stephanie Fleischmann.