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‘Moxie’ Misses the Mark

2016 February 9

The world premiere of “Moxie” reminds me of the movie “The Traveling Pants,” but instead of pants that travel around the world, a book travels around the world. I didn’t like the movie, and I was bored during most of the play.

The play’s promotional synopsis is this: An American marine in Afghanistan connects with his son across the world by crafting a handmade book. As the unfinished Book of Moxie journeys on to a chic Parisian apartment, the slums of India, and, finally, an inner-city American school, all who touch it are sparked to add their personal stories, contributing to its enchanting and mystical force.

If you can buy the reality of that, the play might be for you, but then you still have to contend with the actors. I gritted my teeth while some overly zealous child actors — when they were audible — spoke with such an over-emphasis of their words that it was painful. What felt like halfway through the play, after some bullies shoved one little boy and ripped out pages of the book, the boy goes to the bookbinder (David De Vries) at Kalimann & Grey, to restore the book. I unclenched my teeth when De Vries took the stage, as finally a real presence hit the stage. Without overdoing the character, De Vries portrayed a kind, lovable, elderly man with a Yiddish accent, and it was a joy to watch. The play sinks after that and then picks back up when the boy revisits the bookbinder. The last five minutes of the play when the book comes full circle was the best five minutes of the show. I was so touched I left teary eyed and had to blow my nose when I got outside. “Moxie” may not have moxie, but it just might make the perfect Hallmark movie.

Written by actors Lane Carlock and Brian Kurlander, “Moxie” runs through Feb. 28 at Theatrical Outfit.

Joy Bhowmick, Chiara Bulkin, Carolyn Cook, Danielle Deadwyler, Rial Ellsworth, Laura Fong, Bobby Labartino, Tony Larkin, Royce Mann, Jaden Robinson, Maria Rodriguez-Sager.

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