Ken Ludwig’s "Moon Over Buffalo," offers a funny, farcical, and entertaining behind the scenes look at the world of theatre. A solid ensemble cast and spirited direction by Andrew Vonderschmitt for the Long Beach Playhouse’s Mainstage Theatre make it even funnier.
Set over the course of one day in 1953, in the green room at the Erlanger Theatre in Buffalo, New York, the story features Charlotte (Beverly Turner) and George (Gregory Cohen) Hay, beyond-their-prime actors who face but won’t deal with several unfortunate, inescapable facts. First, their egos compel them to play love scenes that are meant for much younger actors. Second, they can’t meet their payroll because they’re competing not just with the cinema but also with this newfangled thing called television.
On that fate day, daughter Rosalind (Madison Mooney), who left the theatre to pursue a sensible career in advertising, chooses to return home to introduce her dweeby fiancé Howard (Derek Bulger) to her family. His profession won’t endear him to Charlotte’s parents; he’s a TV weatherman, the furthest thing imaginable from a stage actor. Things get worse. Ingénue actress Eileen (Kristi Pruett) drops the bombshell that she’s preggers with George’s child. Diva Charlotte overreacts and resolves to leave George for company lawyer Richard (Cort Huckabone).
Salvation arrives with a phone call from venerable director Frank Capra, who wants to cast George as a replacement for Ronald Coleman in one of his films. Capra intends to fly out to see George perform and the future will once again beam bright for the Hays. That’s when all hell breaks loose.
The cast pulls off a fine ensemble effort. They keep the story lines straight with a sense of character and a mastery of comic situation. To perfection they also time melodramatic outbursts, cases of mistaken identity and even of mistaken plays, drunken degenerations, and hide-and-seeks with dashes across the stage and the slamming of doors.
As the lecherous lead, Cohen’s Gregory is impassioned and indiscrete. He throws his Rabelaisian capacity for love at his career, his company, his wife, and, um, Eileen. His drunken scene exaggerates this passion. Even when soused and prostrate on the floor, he proves you can’t keep a good man down.
Turner’s drama queen Charlotte is equally committed to her various enthusiasms, not least of which is her philandering husband. When Gregory parries, she thrusts. Tempestuous and histrionic at both good news and bad, her pairing with Cohen is inspired.
Fine supporting performances round out the evening. Donna Lee Taylor’s hard of hearing Ethel, George’s dreaded mother-in-law, tries without success to hold things together. Mooney’s Rosalind can’t escape her family’s drama, on or off the stage, while Bulger’s Howard makes a less than favorable first impression on his future in-laws. Huckabone’s sober, respectable Richard is unable to spirit Charlotte away from the madness while Pruett’s demure Eileen wonders what she’s getting herself in to.
Performances are 8pm, Fri. & Sat., 2pm, Sun. The show runs until Mar. 5. Tickets are $12-$22. The Playhouse is located at 5021 E. Anaheim St. For more info call 494-1014 or visit www.lbplayhouse.org.