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Carol Burnett in Moon Over Buffalo on Broadway; PC: Joan Marcus

“Moon Over Buffalo” a comic romp from UCC

by Richard Packham

The News Review, Roseburg, Oregon
March 17, 2006

Successful stage comedy looks easy, but it's not. Good comedy requires just the right mix: a funny script, with fast-moving action and clever dialogue, lots of sight gags, actors who have that special talent combination of timing, exuberance and restraint, and an inventive director who can put it all together in a believable way.

And it's all there -- that perfect mix -- in "Moon Over Buffalo," the new production that opened this week at Umpqua Community College's Centerstage Theatre. What a hoot! Nonstop laughs and chuckles. Once again, as usual, director Dean Remick has worked his magic to give us a thoroughly enjoyable evening of fun and frolic.

Playwright Ken Ludwig works in that great comedy tradition of Noel Coward and Neil Simon, and "Moon" takes its place among the many comedies based on the hectic life behind the scenes of a stage production, like Ludwig's own "Lend Me A Tenor," which has seen two productions in Douglas County in the last 15 years, or Michael Frayn's "Noises Off," which Umpqua Actors Community Theatre did here a couple of years ago.

One could complain that "Moon" is too much like "Noises," with similar comic devices: the unwanted pregnancy resulting from intra-cast hanky-panky, the dual set showing the stage as well as behind the scenes, the missing cast member who is on a drunken toot, the last-minute cast substitutions, the frantic ad-libbing during the performance.
But it's a winning formula, and it produces the laughs. And that is what entertainment is about, isn't it?

It's the 1950s, when television and movies are replacing repertory theater, and the Hays family (dad, mom, daughter, grandma) realize that their livelihood from the stage is passing away. They are in a dreary theater in Buffalo for a rep series ("Cyrano," "Private Lives" and a few other standard, sure-fire rep plays). Gloom over finances and disappointment at not getting parts in the latest Frank Capra movie permeate their interactions and provide the grist for the comedy.

The cast members do a great job in getting the most out of their roles, even the more minor ones: Paul Granholm as the stodgy lawyer; Jere Bartley as hard-of-hearing Grandma Ethel the costume mistress (Bartley actually also did the costumes for this production -- a daunting challenge, masterfully met); Brian Simshauser as the over-shy, forgetful TV weatherman Howard engaged to Rosalind; and Hilerey Marney as the weepy ingénue dealing with a surprise pregnancy.

Melody Macintosh as the daughter who wants to get out of theater, torn between her love of Paul and her engagement to Howard, makes the very most of her generally non-comic part, especially in her solo balcony scene from Noel Coward's play "Separate Lives." Brice Estes as Paul, the general factotum and gofer, romantically rejected by Rosalind, has somewhat less to work with in his role, but does a fine job with what the author gave him.

The really heavy-duty comedy parts are George and Charlotte Hay, a sort of second-rate Lunt and Fontane, played marvelously by Bob Moreland and Wendy Weikum. Weikum has given Roseburg audiences great comedy performances for years, and she gives us another one here. And Moreland could hardly be funnier. He rages, pouts, cries, sulks, orates and drinks, every facial expression and gesture a masterful piece of stage comedy.

And all of this on a great set designed and built by that reliable team of Keith Weikum and George Hollingsworth


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