by Laura Bigham
Moon Over Buffalo is a funny and extremely physical play. The author, Ken Ludwig, is a truly gifted farcical comedy writer. Farce often has several storylines that involve real people stuck in extreme situations and propelled by panic…and that panic creates a lot of laughs.
The story follows a touring theatre troupe in 1953 run by, and starring, the Hay family, including: fading stars George and Charlotte Hay, their daughter Rosalinde, and their deaf mother-in-law. The family has had their ups and downs in “the biz”, which we have a glimpse of before the curtain even rises. First, from the comically unenthusiastic cheering in a rehearsal of the play within the play. Second, from the show’s title itself, which is a comedic play on the classic romance film Moon Over Miami. (What’s more glamorous than Buffalo???) This may sound confusing, but don’t fret! Though the volume of the dialog was a bit quiet, you will not get lost in this production. Filled with falls, chases, sword fights, and mistaken identities, this production will make you LAUGH.
Actors Amy Spadafore and Shawn M. Finney lead the cast in this comical romp. They have a fun rapport that lends believability to their characters’ long term marriage. Amy, in particular, as the wife that is smarter than her husband thinks, lands some one-liners that I couldn’t help but nod my head.
The real standout of the evening was Dan Kettler as Paul, a company actor and the daughter’s ex. He was perfectly cast: charming, completely comfortable in his skin, and jumped quickly and easily from confident to panicked to passionate. He was also the only character who switched into the British dialect for the scene from Noel Cowards Private Lives which was a surprising choice as it can help with clarity.
Though I definitely think the sense of urgency should be higher in this production, this is one of the better paced shows I have seen at Pit and Balcony and this cast does a nice job of balancing each other; for that I applaud director Todd Thomas.
All these characters are a treat to watch. Some other stand outs include: Kevin Profitt -well cast as the suave and polished Richard, Katie Cook - with great comedic delivery as the disgruntled mother-in-law, and newcomer Trashan Donald - a great energy and look for the beautiful, but emotional, Eileen; though it was tough to follow some of the motivation of her quick flips from love to hate.
The set, designed by director Todd Thomas, was exactly what it needed to be. Flow and functionality is so important in Farce and this set had both. The multiple door slams, as are common in farce, did not have this set shaking one bit.
Lighting design by Bailey Banks served the show well, helping to delineate between each of the three separate shows in this production. She used very theatrical lighting to really highlight the difference between the plays this acting troupe puts on and their real lives.
Sound design by L’Oreal Hartwell had me jumping! In general, the sound for the show was quiet though that seemed more an issue with actor projection than sound. However, other than one slow phone cue, the cues were expertly timed which takes skill with as many phone rings and cut offs as there are in this show. The gun shot, while loud enough to make me jump out of my seat, was not out of place.
The costume design by Mary Boone was lovely. The men in particular looked well-tailored, period appropriate, and dapper (and I have always found men’s costumes to be more difficult than they appear). The mother-in-law also looked particularly stunning in her Private Lives costume. The one exception was one often worn dress which seemed not to suit the glamorous and slightly aging star it was holding. I wondered if possibly an older style was chosen to age the actress playing the role, but that seemed unnecessary and a tad distracting.
Overall, this show will make you laugh and forget about the stresses of everyday life. If you need to get out this weekend or next, this is a show you’ll be happy you saw.