URBANA — Actress Mindy Smith made sure to wear her corset for a few days before the start of “The Moors,” which opens tonight at the Station Theatre.
The Victorian-era garment makes her stand differently, so she wanted to wear it long enough to allow it to fade into the background as she becomes Emilie, a governess.
“It changes how you have to move, and that’s no good to do on the fly,” Smith said. “You’ve got to get that ingrained as early as possible.”
Don’t let the costumes of the era fool you, though, director Matthew Green said. While it involves many of the tropes of the era, this play isn’t stiff.
Green said the play, written in 2017, is based on literature of the time, like “Jane Eyre” and “Wuthering Heights,” — but with a twist.
Playwright Jen Silverman “takes, sort of, the cliches of those books, like the governess, and the old creepy mansion and the wilderness just beyond, and possibly there being a crazy person in the house — all of the sort of glamorization of female suffering — and she makes it into a very modern play about women seeking power and seeking to be valued in what would otherwise have been a very male-dominated society,” he said. “But in this house, it’s all women. So it’s interesting the ways in which the patriarchy still rear its head, even in a house full of women, because of the time that they’re in, which is kind of fascinating.
“But it’s predominantly about trying to be about ones self and trying to claim ownership and be heard and seen.”
According to its synopsis, the play centers around two sisters, played by Joi Hoffsommer and Kimmy Schofield, who living in a bleak mansion at the edge of a vast wilderness. Their only companion is a maid, played by Lindsey Gates-Markel, but that solitude is broken by the arrival of a governess, played by Smith. The play also involves a mastiff and a moor-hen, played by humans Matt Hester and Emaline Johnson.
“The Moors,” though, can’t be properly described in a synopsis, Green said.
“This is a hard show to describe to people, first of all because it has surprises that you don’t want to give away,” he said. “But also because I think people might read a synopsis and not see what could be so funny about that particular plot. But from beginning to end, the play has not just comedy but other really entertaining elements that I think audiences take a chance on a play like this that’s a new play, a play that they’ve never seen before, maybe they’ve never heard of it.
“Just come out and give us two hours and just trust us, they’re going to have a good time.”
So don’t judge the play solely by the Victorian dresses and the corset that Smith has been wearing around town.
“It is about a lot of things getting suggested to be one way and turn out to be different than they first seem,” Smith said. “It’s also about wanting to be seen and noticed and to be made to feel important. It’s about loyalty and how different people feel love or feel pain.”