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Photo by Roy Inman, courtesy of the New Theatre Restaurant

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Hal Linden is a master of physical comedy in Over The Moon

RATING: FIVE STARS
By Nancy Pistorius for The Examiner

Parents of preschoolers often shake their heads and marvel at their tiny tots' boundless energy, wishing they could bottle some of it. While watching the New Theatre Restaurant's current production, Over the Moon, last weekend, I found myself shaking my own head and wishing the same thing regarding the extreme exuberance and vitality of octogenarian star, Hal Linden (best known for his role in the hit television series Barney Miller), as he played George Hay as if he were born to the part. He was prancing; he was sword-fighting; he was taking "drunken" pratfalls with the ease of a toddler sliding down the stairs on his bottom. Not only was he playing his role to the hilt, but he seemed to be having a jolly good time doing it. Consequently, the audience took great delight in his performance, too.

But Linden wasn't the only performer who had the audience in stitches. Carmen Roman, pinch-hitting for veteran actress Marion Ross (who had to bow out due to illness four days before opening night, according to my server), was indefatigable as well, and served up her witty lines with so much aplomb and such pitch-perfect timing that she reminded me of Carol Burnett in her prime.

The remaining cast members worked so well together as a company that you would have thought they'd been rehearsing for months together. Charles Fugate as Howard, Seth Macchi as Paul, Ashley Pankow as Eileen, and John Rensenhouse as Richard Maynard all shine in their roles. Lois Marckle is especially hilarious as Ethel, who continually introduces complications into the plot because of being hard of hearing and also hard-headed! And Cheryl Weaver manages to convey just the right combination of bright-eyed ingénue and stubborn career woman, determined not to follow in her parents' footsteps and be married to the theater.

The show itself (written by Ken Ludwig and directed by Richard Carrothers and Dennis D. Hennessy) is a paean to the theater, and one of the conceits is that at times it features "a play within a play," which only adds to the merriment, especially when the play is Cyrano de Bergerac (starring Hal Linden with a nose that keeps falling off).

Of course, any review of a New Theatre Restaurant performance has to include the evening's repast, and as usual, it did not disappoint. The usual suspects (buttermilk fried chicken, succulently tender flat iron beef, and white roughy) were joined by risotto carbonara and pulled pork. The mild bbq sauce is so yummy that you might want to use it as a seasoning for some of the other entrees on your plate.

A vegetarian would never go hungry at a New Theatre Restaurant buffet, because of the variety of side dishes. This production's offerings include sweet corn and zucchini (with grape tomatoes), spinach au gratin, romas modiga, rigatoni pasta arezzio, half-smashed potatoes (New Theatre audiences would most certainly mutiny if this accompaniment were taken off the menu), and polenta.

All in all, you can't beat the entertainment value of a ticket to New Theatre. Kansas City is so fortunate to have this gem in our midst.

And you won't want to miss this farce. With all the hilarity that ensues during each performance, it will send you---dare I say it?--over the moon.

Over the Moon runs through April 24, 2016 at the New Theatre Restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas.

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