From the moment Chris Stewart and Bianca Phipps come over the loud speaker promising a 15 minute intermission to give viewers’ abs a break from all the laughter that is about to occur, the tone for the entire night’s performance is set. As the curtains rise it becomes obvious that such a break will be necessary because if the Theater Department’s production of “Moon Over Buffalo” by Ken Ludwig had to be described in one word that word would be “hysterical.”
The play, which opened last night, was led by seniors Stewart and Phipps playing Charlotte and George Hay, a semi-washed up acting couple whose theater company is touring in Buffalo in 1953. An opportunity arises for them to star alongside each other in a big movie production, “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, and the director gets on a plane to Buffalo to watch the couple’s matinee performance. Drunkenness, multiple counts of infidelity, unplanned pregnancy, and all out confusion promptly ensue. And the laughs just keep on rolling.
A small cast of eight, every actor had their own moments to shine. Senior Maya Garcia is splendid as Ethel, a cranky old grandmother with difficulty hearing. Her frequent miscommunication and spats with son-in-law George make for great laughs. Juniors Emily Kendrick and Colton Barton who both found break out roles in last year’s production of “The Learned Ladies”, play Rosalind, daughter to Charlotte and George who is determined to leave the world of acting, and Howard her weather man husband to be. Niki Greco, senior, and Johny Violante, junior, play Eileen and Richard who tempt Charlotte and George to stray towards infidelity with varying amounts of success. And finally Senior Michael Coyle plays Paul, stage manager of the Hay’s theater company and Rosalind’s ex-boyfriend who she left in her attempts to live a “normal” life. Coyle was a true stand out. His slapstick sliding, slipping, tripping, falling humor complete with exceptionally goofy grin was spot on.
Phipps and Stewart shine as comedians. Their performances in “Moon Over Buffalo” are slightly reminiscent of those they gave in David Lindsay-Abaire’s hilarious comedy, “Fuddy Meers” two years ago. Neither production would have been complete without the comedic and acting talents the two performers bring to the characters they play. Quite frankly, the stardom Charlotte and George Hay yearn for in “Moon Over Buffalo” is something Phipps and Stewart already have. Stewart particularly keeps the crowd laughing during scenes of drunken ribaldry but even when his character is not under the influence his humor is impeccable.
“Moon Over Buffalo” is action packed and fast-paced. It is also very loud and hectic at points as characters bicker, argue, and try to resolve issues. Characters are constantly running up and down stairs, in and out doors, and everywhere else the stage can carry them (including the pit). More than anything this constant movement is impressive. Actors managed to meet their cues expertly and deliver the quick dialogue with impressive comedic timing.
“Moon Over Buffalo” is showing tonight the 27, tomorrow the 28, Saturday the 29 at 7:00 as well as a 3:00 matinee on Saturday. Tickets are $7 at the door.