Blue lights, long shadows, and overturned crates make for a minimal setting, but a passably gritty one. For an off-Broadway production and a one-hour, one-woman show, it’s unsurprising. The show itself, however, hides some truth in the darkness.
Through October 8th, The Theater Center of New York presents “The Death of the Moon,” a musical about a woman who “rhapsodizes about her loneliness and downward spiral into the seedy underbelly of New York City.” Chloe Tucker plays Danielle, our tragic and sole heroine. Her voice, as all the reviews read, is easily one of the few qualities that carry the production for an hour. Fitting nineteen, often cryptic, musical numbers into her time frame is no easy feat, and she does it with undeniable skill and grace ― in heels at that.
The narrative of the musical, however, is lost on most. While it is advertised as “an alluringly gritty new musical that tells the story of a young woman's life as it spirals down into a world of drugs and prostitution,” we never see so much a spiral as we do a snapshot of her already-spiraled life. She enters the stage as a sex worker and exits as one, claiming big dreams of fame that are inhibited by her criminal record and her occupation. Her drug and alcohol consumption are an added deterrent, but neither are explained nor significantly effective of her, particularly given the time frame of the story. She manages to drink a glass full of sparkly something mid-song― an event that registers more impressive than damaging. It’s difficult to perceive her substance abuse as genuinely impactful when it is so casually inserted as a quirk.
Though we never quite understand why she is a sex worker, she reveals the tale of a past lover who cheated on her with her friend. That anecdote pervades the narrative, suggesting that she has been wronged by lovers beyond her current work, and that it is this heartbreak that initiates the spiral. This elicits some sympathy, but is still too far detached from the plot to be truly meaningful.
It is worth adding that our heroine is a humorous one; her critique of wealthy Manhattanites, their broken relationships, and their reliance on the sex industry is light-hearted but certainly well-intended. She defies an otherwise overwhelming cliché in how colorfully she details the role of the sex industry in modern society, and the popular distaste for it that contrasts with how frequently people entertain it. She knows that she has an indispensable worth in her society, even if it’s everyone’s dirty secret.
However, as rushed as it felt and how uneventful it was, watching the performance is still insightful, particularly in the wake of Hugh Hefner’s death. While women graced the front covers and glossy pages of his publication, they served a purpose dictated and controlled by the male gaze. They possessed, like our heroine, a sexuality owned by others. Danielle’s character voices the impact of “creating a brand that is synonymous with sexualized women being gazed at as things a man might want to acquire.”
Plot holes are numerous and resolution is far off, but the heavy social themes might make the play worth the watch. "The Death of the Moon" may not live to see off-Broadway acclaim, but it certainly lives a narrative that goes far beyond the stage.