MOON OVER BUFFALO: Whitby Courthouse Theatre
Producers: Heather Doucette and Brandon Rideout, Director: Roz McArthur-Keyes
It’s one smart marketing ploy (and yet not the only one) to conclude a theatre season with a fast paced comedy that will keep audiences coming back and wanting more. WCT concludes its 2015-2016 season with the hilarious ‘Moon Over Buffalo’ by Ken Ludwig. There is an interesting YOU TUBE selection on the history of ‘Moon’ and how it came to the New York stage with the original cast of Carol Burnett and Philip Bosco. Give it a look as it will help you to appreciate the tremendous amount of work that has gone into this delightful production now on stage at Whitby’s Centennial Building.
George and Charlotte Hay (real life married couple Shael Risman and Sharon Berman who are wonderful in these two roles) are George and Charlotte Hay, traveling actors, who are performing in repertory ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ and ‘Private Lives’ in a theatre in Buffalo New York in 1953. Charlotte has dreams of becoming a Hollywood star while George is content to remain a stage actor and sees live theatre as superior to being in film. News arrives that Frank Capra (one of the biggest film directors in Hollywood in the 1950s) says that he needs to replace both Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson (two important and influential Hollywood actors in the 1950s) from his current film and that he plans to see George’s show and consider George and Charlotte as the replacements for his upcoming film. This is where the fun begins as there is a cavalcade of buxom, independent and winsome women, nerdy and needy men, being in the wrong place at the right time, doors slamming and closing for entrances and exits of characters, drunken binges and ill-fitting costumes.
Chris Francom’s set design is top notch as we do receive the immediate impression that this is a second rate traveling theatrical company who has been housed in a dilapidated and run down dressing room with rickety stairs to climb to stage left and stage right. There is a clever use of scrim that hides the setting from the audience before the performance begins. This scrim is then used quite effectively to open the play with the ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ production. Costumes effectively evoke the 1950s feel with all the bright shades of colours, textures and tones. Kudos to Mirtha Quattrochi and her team.
Comedic farce, in particular, is by no means an easy feat of performance. It must and needs to keep moving quickly at such a pace where the audience literally does not have to time to breathe or to think, but just be in the moment. Under Roz McArthur-Keyes direction (who is one busy lady when you read her bio), this particular cast works extremely well to move the story forward quickly without it becoming high camp. I can imagine all of them must be sweating and exhausted at the conclusion of each performance. Pay close attention to Shael Risman’s tour de force drunken binge as it is wonderful to watch. There are other memorable moments.
As Charlotte’s wise cracking, dotty and nearly deaf mother, Ethel, Deborah Lobban’s wisecracking and smart ass side comments to the action playing out in front of her provide much of the laughter. As Eileen (Richard’s one night stand who ends up pregnant by him), Jennie Archambault’s moments where she bursts into tears as to what Richard did to her are rather amusing. Her tearful outbursts remind us of the way Sally Struthers used to cry on television’s ‘All In The Family’. Garret Lee’s nerdish and nasally weather forecaster, Howard (fiancée to George and Ethel’s daughter, Rosalind) offers a unique vocal contrast to the other actors. The moment Howard becomes confused by Charlotte who thinks he is Frank Capra is a gem to watch. Janet Phillips, Kevin Shaver and Harry Noble accentuate further laughter as Rosalind, the Hay’s daughter, Paul (Rosalind’s ex-fiance) and Richard (Charlotte’s needy lawyer).
In her Director’s message, Ms. McArthur-Keyes reminds us all of the simple reason why we have a devotion to theatre, especially community theatre. It builds community; it builds a family albeit for a short time, and we love community theatre for the sheer joy, laughter, frustrations, perseverance and total abandon. Community theatre is a magnetic for those who work on stage or behind the scenes. It draws us inexplicably, cements us together and through storm, stress and laughter and confusion we develop an even greater awareness of our human connection and dimension. Nicely stated, Ms. Keyes.
‘Moon Over Buffalo’ continues to April 30 at 8 pm with a matinee performance at 2 pm on April 23. Tickets may be purchased at the door or online. For further information, visit their website. The Whitby Centennial Building is located at 416 Centre Street South.