From left, Jonelle Meyer, Toby Manion and Tracy Borgatti star in Early Bird Dinner Theatre’s production of Ken Ludwig’s “Moon Over Buffalo,” running through Oct. 27.
Ideally, what happens backstage should stay backstage – except in the case of Ken Ludwig’s madcap comedy “Moon Over Buffalo.”
This wacky farce is ably by the Early Bird Dinner Theatre troupe – the area’s masters of comic mayhem.
Early Bird Dinner Theatre’s production of “Moon Over Buffalo” runs through Oct. 27, at the Italian American Club, 200 S. McMullen Booth Road.
This backstage farce set in 1953 revolves around traveling actors George and Charlotte Hay – aging thespians who have earned a degree of success and fame on stage and in film. The couple yearns for their “one big break” – that elusive big budget Hollywood blockbuster opportunity – to elevate them to the pantheon of cinema stardom.
Of course, that opportunity arrives at the worst possible moment.
The Hays’ marriage is collapsing due to George’s infidelity. Their daughter Rosalind – an escapee from the wild life of the theater – has returned to introduce her parents to her fiancé. Paul – Rosalind’s former beau – is managing the Hays’ theater company, which is in financial ruin. Eileen – a member of the troupe – is pregnant … with George’s child.
Throw into the mix Charlotte’s hard-of-hearing mother, an imminent visit from famed Hollywood director Frank Capra and a series of mistaken identities and hilarity is guaranteed.
Whether he’s playing up George’s delusions of grandeur or hamming it up as his character hits the bottle, Toby Manion delivers an imposing performance. Manion even manages to imbue the egotistical thespian with a trace of vulnerability in the second act, adding dimension to an otherwise narcissistic character.
As Charlotte, Barbara Anthony is wonderfully idiosyncratic: Fuming at her cheating husband one moment and longing for an opportunity to audition for Capra the next. Because Manion and Anthony have shared the stage in so many EBDT productions, it is not difficult for the two to establish a connection – even if it is a frayed bond, like the one George and Charlotte share.
Tracy Borgatti does a fine job of painting Rosalind as being above the frenzied lifestyle of her thespian parents – until circumstances draw her back into the comical chaos. Her funniest moment comes as she attempts to single-handedly stage “Private Lives” while her inebriated father is set on performing “Cyrano de Bergerac.” The back-and-forth between Borgatti and Manion is classic.
Gary L. Smith joins the cast as Richard Maynard, the Hays’ attorney. Richard is the straight man here, save for one tragic flaw: He’s hopelessly in love with Charlotte. Smith is the raised eyebrow of the outsider watching the uproarious bedlam that seems to be the status quo for the Hay family.
Connie McDonald becomes queen of the malapropism as deaf grandmother Ethel. McDonald’s Ethel is charmingly befuddled.
Supporting players Ian MacCallum, Jonelle Meyer and Kevin Bangos are equally convincing in their roles. MacCallum’s Paul is increasingly hysterical as the play proceeds, evolving from a state of restless trepidation to one of sidesplitting panic. Meyer’s Eileen is a blur of teary calamity, wonderfully melodramatic. Bangos portrays Howard as blissfully oblivious to the pandemonium surrounding him.
Manion also serves as director on this production. Manion deftly orchestrates the eight-person cast through a brisk series of entrances and exits using five doors – the hurried movement of the characters adds to the momentum of the play. He underscores the slapstick but doesn’t allow it to overshadow the running gags and character quirks that give “Moon Over Buffalo” its comedic underpinning.
Early Bird Dinner Theatre’s production of “Moon Over Buffalo” is a fast-paced farce that employs physical humor, mistaken identities, misunderstandings and idiosyncratic characters to evoke hilarity.
Seating for performances is Thursday through Sunday, 4 p.m. Seating for matinees is Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m. Cost is $29.90 a person. For reservations, call 446-5898. Visit www.earlybirddinnertheatre.com.