Two of the funniest theatrical giant egos ever face off — and on — in Ken Ludwig’s “Moon Over Buffalo,” which opened Friday evening in the Bristol Opera House.
The Elkhart Civic Theatre production advances swiftly under the direction of Demaree Dufour-Noneman and assistant director Mike Nichols without missing a step (or a door slam) or dropping a laugh-line!
This is a farce with a capital F!
No surprise as Ludwig plays (the current total is18 plus three musicals) are frequently on the schedules of American and international theaters, amateur to professional and everything in between .
Let me preface this by saying that farce is my very least, favorite style of comedy. There are only a few exceptions and, excluding “Noises Off,” all are the work of Ken Ludwig. Even these teeter on the humor fence if not presented by a talented cast working at top speed on a definitely sturdy set.
No worries here. Settle back and enjoy this evening (two hours including intermission) of frequently non-stop laughter.
Those familiar with Ludwig’s works will easily spot a similarity in plotlines and character types: A frequently warring older couple; young lovers separated (temporarily) by differing goals; possible replacement suitors for each age group, and an outside observer commenting acidly on the situations.
Put them all together and, with slight changes in locale and lifestyles, they could be in any Ludwig comedy. Happily, in this incarnation all are in 1953 Buffalo, N.Y. where actors George and Charlotte Hay (Timothy and Stephanie Yoder) and their touring company are currently in repertory playing “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Private Lives.”
Charlotte dreams of being a movie star while George is happy on stage. Nevertheless he is excited when a phone call from director Frank Capra re-ignites hopes of them starring in his latest film, “The Twilight of the Scarlet Pimpernel,” whose original leading man has left via a broken leg.
Charlotte, who has just learned of George’s affair with now-pregnant company member Eileen (Stephanie Isley), is ready to depart with their lawyer Richard Maynard (Keith Sarber), who has loved her for years. She refuses to believe the Capra story and exits, leaving a despondent George to dive into the nearest bottle.
When Charlotte discovers the truth, it is up to her and daughter Rosalind (Amberly Nichols); Rosalind’s current fiancé TV weatherman Howard (Brent Graber), and her former fiancé, stage manager Paul (Brock Butler), to find the missing leading man before Capra arrives for the matinee. The search is not simplified by Charlotte’s very deaf mother, Ethel (Stacey Nickel), company wardrobe lady and definitely not a fan of George’s.
Once the elusively intoxicated actor is found, the question of which show is to be done opens another mixed theatrical bag.
To say that breakneck speed is required of this comedy is putting it mildly. Not only must the cast members establish mostly outrageous characters but maintain them and deliver dialogue audibly while heading up and/or down stairs and in/or out of doors. There are numerous doors, all of which are opened and slammed shut on cue, mostly in mid-flight. All are evidence of the solid building by the set construction crew.
Then there is the comedic nightmare of timing. i.e. getting the set up line out and waiting until the laughter peaks before delivering the punch line. It’s an art and one which is, for the most part, handled tightly throughout. Difficult to judge until an audience is present but sharply done, even on opening night.
All are well-cast but special applause must go to Tim Yoder who is hilariously drunk and increasingly funny throughout the second act without losing a line or an expression. Also to Graber, who gives new definition to “nerd” and manages to raise the laugh quotient considerably right up to the unbelievable-but-hilarious final “blow.”
Cannot think of a better way to shake off the increasing blues of the day than by taking a good look at this “Moon Over Buffalo.”
‘MOON OVER BUFFALO’ plays Friday through Sunday in the Bristol Opera House on SR 120 in Bristol. For show times and reservations, call (574) 848-4116 or visit elkhartcivictheatre.org