Written in 1867, Under the Gaslight takes place in post-Civil War high society of NYC. Two cousins, Pearl (Mackenzie Shaw) and Laura Courtland (Olivia Wilusz), are in mourning for their mother/aunt. Pearl is ready to break out of the rules of mourning and join society again, while the more serious Laura, engaged to the dashing Ray Trafford (Ryan Dean Maltz), is content to stay at home. Their life of parties and sleigh rides is interrupted by a mysterious man named Byke (Corey Quinn Farrell) who threatens their place in society with a secret involving Laura's true identity. A disappearance, a broken engagement, blackmail, kidnapping, an attempted drowning, and perhaps the biggest staple of the melodrama - someone being tied to train tracks - all occur before we get to our happy ending where the villains are punished and the heroes live happily ever after.
|Ray (Ryan Dean Maltz) and Pearl (Mackenzie Shaw)|
(photo by Dan Norman)
The tiny showboat stage provides the setting for many different locations, typically with just a two-dimensional painted backdrop to set the scene, but sometimes with complicated set pieces involving a pier or the aforementioned train tracks. The backdrops have a charming old-fashioned feel that perfectly match the tone of the show.
Under the Gaslight continues at the Minnesota Centennial Showboat through August 27, when the curtain will fall on the U of M summer melodrama for the last time, marking the end of an era. There will no doubt be other activities on the Showboat, and opportunities for U of M theater students to share their talents, but it won't look like this.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.