Funny 'Moon' shines in Pacifica Spindrift Players production
By Keith Kreitman, CONTRIBUTOR
TAKE ONE part farce, one part idiocy, two parts hysteria, fold in a comedic cast and simmer over the gourmet-paced flames of a humor-savvy director and you have Ken Ludwig's "Moon Over Buffalo" at the Pacifica Spindrift Players in Pacifica.
This is the funniest thing I've reviewed in years. Of course, the concept, the script, the running in and out of doors and mistaken identities all need to be there, but the comedy goes nowhere without just the right performers to pull it off. And director Pamela Mackenzie sought out just the right ingredients from the talent shelves to raise this witty souffle.
Although Ludwig's comedy first opened on Broadway in 1995, it is set in Buffalo, N.Y., circa 1953, and in many ways harks back to that era of early-century Broadway and West End of London "just fun" productions, full of one-liner gags, crazy costumes, pratfalls and all the other gag stuff from the old theater tradition of "leave 'em laughing!"
And, with this Pacifica cast, that is exactly what you do, laugh.
Backstage in the old Erlanger Theater in Buffalo are members of a touring repertory company starring George Hay (Kris Carey) and his wife Charlotte (Cathy Fithian), prominent old-time stage performers in an art rapidly being drowned in a sea of movies and television.
Their daughter Rosalind (Tracy Ann Chapel), also an actress, having had her fill of touring company life, has broken off her engagement with the company's stage manager, Paul (Matthew
Wehner), and wants out so she can marry Howard (Steve Mattes), a wimpy TV weatherman who adores George and Charlotte, the "royal couple."
Complicating the relationships are their lawyer Richard (Irving Schulman), who is determined to corral Charlotte for himself; Eileen (Sterling Wolper), a young company actress whom George has impregnated and Charlotte's nearly deaf mother Ethel (Lynn Ruth Miller), whose faulty hearing sets in motion a string of misunderstandings and panicked reactions that spread all over town.
Although Fithian is a comic reaction master on her own, it is Carey as George who is the standout. His drunken soliloquy in Act 2 is a small masterpiece of control.
Therein lies another story. It was Carey's actress wife, Cheryl, who several years ago dragged him from a life of rationality and sanity into the theater world. She drafted him into a small local production to fill the need for "another male." Why a wife would want to do that to a loving, if naive, mate, escapes me.
The rest, as they say, is history. Carey possesses one of the rarest of all theatrical talents: a genuine gift for comedic acting and timing, verbally and visually, from which he can shift with lightning speed into the most dramatic.
What develops in the "Moon Over Buffalo" story is that famed screen director Frank Capra is seeking George and Charlotte out as possible replacements for injured actors in one of his movies still in production. This presents an opportunity for the famous stage couple to extend their careers.
Problem is, Capra is flying in to see their matinee production that day, which could be either Noel Coward's "Private Lives" or Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac," and how the two get intertwined in the performance itself is the hysterically funny culmination of all the confusions.
The resolution at the end is rather obvious and tacky but, what the heck? It's the cast's first-rate comedic acting that keeps the audience in stitches.