“The Moonstone” is a hefty brick of a 19th-century novel, at the heart of which is the story of a young lady’s lost jewel and her family’s efforts to figure out where it went. Rachel Verinder (Ann Sonneville) receives a yellow Indian diamond, called the moonstone, for her birthday. The moonstone carries a dark history and is very possibly cursed; when it goes missing, no one is above suspicion. Despite the dire consequences of the ensuing investigation – false accusations, murder, suicide, and lost love – the pursuit continues for several years. As the trusted family servant Betteredge (Sean Sinitski) puts it, he’s got “detective fever,” and so does everyone else.
Lifeline’s stage version (adaptation by Robert Kauzlaric; directed by Paul S. Holmquist ) of Wilkie Collins’ novel is at its finest when it sticks to detective work. The best moments come in the first and third acts, which depict the moonstone’s sudden loss and the eventual, delightfully cockamamie explanation for what happened to it. In between, however, there is a great deal other material, much of which could be cut, shortened, or briefly narrated. Despite the cast’s talents and the snappy pace at which each scene proceeds, the sheer length of the show dilutes its storytelling power.
A few standout performances liven things up, especially Dave Skvarla as a professional detective and rose-garden enthusiast, and Peter Greenberg as an opium fiend with a heart of gold and a gaze of alarming intensity. Bill Morey’s costumes also deserve mention; beautiful dresses swishing across the stage offset the pleasant, functional simplicity of Ian Zywica’s set. For anyone looking for a charming period piece with great visuals, this should hit the spot.