Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Moon Over Buffalo
It's 1953, and box office stars George and Charlotte Hay (Dodds Delzell and Madeleine Ashe) try desperately to hold on to their fading glory, their budget, and their dignity as they slog through plays in repertory at middling theatre venues like Buffalo, New York. Actors are quitting because they haven't been paid, and it's getting harder for George to persuade Charlotte to continue the lackluster tour, especially when their company lawyer Richard (Joe Winkler) keeps trying to woo Charlotte away.
The Hays' daughter Rosalind (Chandler Parrott-Thomas) has already abandoned theatre in search of a normal life, but she shows up unexpectedly with weatherman fiancé Howard (Erik Weiss) in tow, hoping to introduce him to mom and dad at an opportune time. Her ex-fiancé Paul (Robert Nelson) still manages the company, and still carries a torch for Roz. Charlotte's nearly deaf mother Ethel (Shirley Nilsen Hall) and company ingénue Eileen (Victoria Saitz), who has a thing for George, round out the cast.
Disasters create situational sinkholes in act one until a call from George's agent tells him famous film director Frank Capra needs a replacement for Ronald Colman in his new film, stat, and is flying out to watch the matinee. Act two picks up farcical steam with mistaken identities, costume confusion, slamming doors, and a hilarious attempt to sober up a drunken actor. When the matinee finally begins, all bets are off as to what Capra will actually see.
While the script bears resemblance to Ludwig's earlier play, Lend Me a Tenor, it still has ample laughs and gags of its own. It's nothing earth-shaking, just a delightful homage to theatre folk with a dash of romance both young and old thrown in.
Director Carl Jordan has cast with actors well-matched to roles and up to the comedic demands of a fast-paced farce. Delzell and Ashe capably handle swordplay, verbal retorts, and physical comedy, and have the requisite chemistry. Parrott-Thomas is a standout as Rozher few minutes trying to salvage the opening moments of Private Lives are theatrical gold. She and Nelson threaten to steal the show with Roz and Paul's rekindled romance. Hall's wonderful deadpan looks make the character, and Saitz is suitably young, pretty, and shallow but shrewd.
Weiss is adept at physical slapstick, but it's overused in act one, and his demeanor throughout is far too exaggerated for believability. Winkler as Richard presents a very understated alternative to George's volatility, but avoids being charming.
Scenic design by Jason Jamerson wonderfully captures the backstage greenroom of a bygone era, with lots of doors, and lighting by April George adds much to the gleefully cartoonish style of the show. Marcy Frank's period and production costumes are quite attractive and character appropriate, and allow for the rigorous movement involved. Fight director Marty Pistone conjures both "stage" and "real" fights among various characters with great effect. Joe Winkler's sound design offers up excellent '50s music, but seems unnecessary for certain sound effects on stage.
Overall, it's a delicious and decidedly entertaining evening, with a capable cast in a crazy farce. Be prepared to laugh out loud a lot.
Moon Over Buffalo, through February 3, 2019, at 6th Street Playhouse, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa CA. Tickets $20.00-$30.00 can be purchased online at www.6thstreetplayhouse.com or by phone at 707-523-4185 ext. 1