Notorious Fun

Moll Flanders’ endures in stage adaptation of classic novel

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Amber Collins relates alluring stories of adventure as ‘Moll Flanders,’ playing in Ross. Credit: Robin Jackson

At the historic Barn Theatre through June 16, Ross Valley Players presents the wildly entertaining Incidents in the Wicked Life of Moll Flanders, adapted by Jennifer Le Blanc from Daniel Defoe’s 1722 novel and purportedly based on true events. It’s a delicious, R-rated romp through the streets of Victorian England and colonial America, related as a first-person memoir by one of the most alluring, audacious and notorious heroines in all of classic literature.

Born to a felon in London’s Newgate Prison, Moll Flanders enters the world with little to rely on but her own resourcefulness, beauty and feminine wiles. Determined to secure a comfortable life, she manages to elevate herself through often-unscrupulous means. Her adventures span five husbands—including one who turns out to be her brother—and countless abandoned children, scandalous affairs, prostitution and thievery and a series of narrow escapes. Just when it seems her luck has finally run out, a last-minute death-row pardon saves the day, and Moll’s story ends, despite all odds, a rather happy one.

Amber Collins Crane takes a captivating turn in the leading role, bringing a legendary free spirit to life with endearing candor, charisma and playful charm, and narrating the approximately two-hour-long show in a near-perfect accent with unfaltering energy. Her dynamic performance is bolstered by a strong ensemble, with each of the dozen actors but Crane cast in multiple roles.

Memorable among them are Stephen Dietz as the cuckolded banker, Carolyn Beach as long-lost Mother and Jack Clendenen as the young playboy who first wins and breaks Moll’s heart. The others are very good, too, juggling numerous character changes on a crowded stage with impressive stamina and credibility. Robert Molossi stands out as the dashing Jemy, in whom perhaps Moll finds her perfect match. Their reciprocal deception and protracted romance are exciting to watch unfold.

Director Ellen Brooks keeps the pace moving, aided by the versatility of Ron Krempetz’s uncomplicated set and Michael A. Berg’s creative costumes. Effective lighting (also credited to Brooks) and skillful sound design by Billie Cox help set the scene throughout each transformation. Clever use of simple props and the actors’ movements create the illusion of a rocking ship on stormy waters and a horse-drawn carriage ride.

Delivered in a buoyant style with laughs and liveliness, Moll Flanders is delightfully risqué and loads of fun. Leave the kids at home for this one.

’Incidents in the Wicked Life of Moll Flanders’ runs Thurs–Sun through June 16 at the Barn Theatre in the Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. Times vary. $12–$27. 415.883.4498.

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