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Review: LU’s ‘Luna Gale’ fills theater with emotion

Caitllin Parker, left, Ed Seymour and Matt Hurt in a scene from "Luna Gale." Courtesy photo
Caitlin Parker, left, Ed Seymour and Matt Hurt in a scene from "Luna Gale." Courtesy photo

A play about a custody battle between a young mother and her own mother, and a social worker’s fight within the system may not seem like a fun way to spend a couple of hours. But Rebecca Gilman’s “Luna Gale,” as presented by Lamar University’s theatre department, is a thoughtful, amusing and inspired piece of art.

The show is presented in the Studio Theatre through Oct. 6.

The play opens in an emergency waiting room as parents, Peter (Chris Shroff) and Karlie (Maddie Beard), who are meth addicts, wait on news of their sick toddler Luna Gale. Social worker Caroline (Caitlin Parker) informs the couple that their child is being taken into state care.

When Karlie’s ultra-religious mother, Cindy (Emily Buesing), is granted temporary custody, things get complicated.

Excellently guest directed by Carolyn Johnson, the production makes audience’s hearts drop and keeps us on our toes. After every scene, the characters’ fates shift and change.

“Luna Gale” explores people of different backgrounds trying to do what they think is right for the child. The fate of Luna lies in Caroline’s hands. She wants to do what is best, but is torn between what is socially good for Luna and her own past experience.

The play demonstrates people’s different social aspects and how that affects their parenting — from religion to addiction. The audience feels like they are on an emotional rollercoaster over the fate of Luna.

The actors portray strong emotions and the characters feel real. Each character’s background sinks deep into one’s heart and means something. Every character has trauma that keeps them motivated and the actors give flawless performances throughout.

Shroff’s Peter is a dynamic character who is an unlikely optimist. Parker’s Caroline is dealing with her own issues as she fights the system from within. She is not just doing her job, she has a personal reason for wanting to help Luna.

Beard does an excellent job as the young mother torn between her love for her child and her inner demons.

The entire ensemble, including Janely Alvarez, Matt Hurt and Ed Seymour, shines, in large part to Gilman’s excellent script. Each character has a clearly defined backstory and each story is integral to the main plot. Each line has meaning, and each actor seems to understand their character.

The set is sparse, with a simple carpet defining the stage. The multiple sliding walls are a wonderful way to easily shift scenes, so the audience doesn’t shift their attention. The blank walls keep the audience focused on the characters. Kudos go to set designer Liz Freese.

The opening night audience reacted to each scene, often gasping in shock at a new revelation. The play also has moments of humor, which is often an emotional release that is needed.

“Luna Gale” is outstanding in all aspects and a must see. It is not what one expects — and that’s a good thing.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m., Oct. 4, 5, and 2 p.m., Oct. 6.

Tickets are $7 for LU and LIT students, $10 for seniors, and $15 for general admission.

For tickets, call 409-880-8037 or visit

Category: Features