2/10/2023 MOON OVER BUFFALO CenterStage North
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
Welcome to the world of George and Charlotte Hay, a place where everyone else is a supporting player. At least that's how it used to be. They once were the center of the universe, theatre-wise, but lately they've been on a downward spiral. Charlotte has had a string of flop-movies, and George has been ... well, George. They are now failing to make ends meet by performing a repertory of "audience favorites" to half-empty houses in Buffalo. Welcome to 1953 and the city in the shadow of Niagara!
And welcome to Ken Ludwig's Moon Over Buffalo, a popular backstage farce, his follow-up to the even-more-popular Lend me a Tenor. This has many of the same elements as that favorite -- over-the-top egos “of a certain age” coasting on reputation, a talented younger generation nipping at their heels, stock characters designed to set-up classic farce-y business (a hard-of-hearing senior, a nerdy suitor, a dumb-as-a-fox ingénue, a heartsick lawyer, and enough doors to satisfy more than a few door-slamming chases).
You see, the Hays may be due for a comeback. Passed over for the latest Frank Capra movie, a series of (un)fortunate events have put them back in line for that project. Frank Capra is on the way to see their matinee of Private Lives (or is it Cyrano?). But, in true farce-fashion, egos, miscommunications, and wayward whiskey conspire to buffalo everyone's not-so-best-laid-plans.
This is a truly hysterical production of a very funny play. Any Moon-Over-Production rises and falls on the shoulders of its George and Charlotte, and, in that regard, CSN fires on all cylinders. Bill Wolski (George) is an over-the-top comedic force, a ham-in-motion who never fails to make himself the center of the universe. We see the reason for his reputation as he "nails" a few "Cyrano" speeches and Shakespeare quotes, but we can't help wondering how his
declamatory project-to-the-balcony style would ever work on screen, and, IMHO, that's the comedic point -- only a Capra in the throes of desperation would even consider him a viable Pimpernel. We also see him grow ever-more drunk and sloppy, yet still deliver a fine-as-fancy Cyrano -- is it his fault everyone else is doing Private Lives?
Lisa Clark as Charlotte is his match and “perfect foil.” She is as desperate as George for a hit, and still manages to gracefully play an anchoring rationality to his soaring exuberance. They are a wonderful pair and connect on the necessary levels to drive this play’s comedic engine.
J.R. McCall and Jessie Kuipers bring their own brand of eccentricities to Paul and Rosalind, the younger generation, who, in more “by the numbers” productions would be played “straight” as a counterpoint tp the over-the-top older folks. Mr. McCall sports a sky-high pompadour that is a walking sight gag and Ms. Kuipers carries a touring-trunk load of insecurities and denialisms, so you know she is a perfect match for Mr. McCall. As Rosalind’s “normal” suitor, Gabriel Bland may be a tad baby-faced to convince anyone he could be Frank Capra, but he brings an endearing physicality to the role, at one point hopping across the stage and down a staircase while bound around the ankles. In other roles, Bria Washington and Steve Pryor bring their own sense of sass and style. And, in true “show-must-go-on” fashion, a recent cast injury compels co-director Leigh-Ann Campbell to step into the role of Ethel, and she pulls it off beautifully.
Kirk and Leigh-Ann Campbell have directed them all with a zesty tempo that does justice to all the over-the-top antics, and uses the lovely Jeff Costello set to perfection. This production soars with a breakneck tempo even as it looks and sounds like a Buffalo Hays Production.
Moon Over Buffalo is a crowd-pleasing romp through a backstage world that seems all-too-familiar to many of us, filled with juicy word-burger dialogue that sizzles, crammed with well-wrought comic business that slams the door on any quibbly nitpicks that pedants such as I can muster (if we choose to judge a play rather than enjoy it). CenterStage North and their cast and crew are all to be congratulated for a job well done!
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com #CenterStageNorth #MoonOverBuffalo)