When I heard the Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica was presenting Ken Ludwig’s MOON OVER BUFFALO, I knew I was in for a treat watching all the missed communications, mistaken identities, secrets, and lies colliding hilariously backstage between Charlotte and George Hay, fading stars of the 1950s, played to perfection by Wendy Way and Edwin Scheibner. They nail these two quirky characters every moment they are onstage. So hysterical is this farce, Ludwig was able to bring Carol Burnett out of retirement to play Charlotte on Broadway.
Director Michael Thomas-Visgar’s expert direction assures that the amazing thespians in the ensemble cast were perfect in their roles. The actors were dedicated to making sure each of their many entrances and exits through the 5 doors in the set, designed by William Sawyer, was done exactly on time, allowing each farcical situation to become even funnier than the last!
Taking place in 1953, both onstage and backstage at the Erlanger Theatre in Buffalo, New York, Charlotte and George are playing and Cyrano De Bergerac” in rep with five other actors. On the brink of a disastrous split-up caused by George’s dalliance with Eileen, a young ingénue portrayed by Haley Rade, they receive word that they might just have one last shot at stardom: Frank Capra is coming to town to see their matinee, and if he likes what he sees, he might cast them in his movie remake of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”
Unfortunately for George and Charlotte, everything that could go wrong does go wrong, abetted by a visit from their daughter Rosalind (lovely and classy Desiree Gillespie) and her clueless weatherman fiancé Howard (goofy Josh Breeding who rocks the stage when he enters dressed as General George Patton).
It begins when Charlotte mistakenly believes that Howard is Frank Capra, never having met him before, and their conversation, while perfectly clear to the two of them, makes no sense whatsoever to the reality of the scene since each believes the other is talking about a completely different subject. The unintentional humor is a true example of Ludwig’s comic genius.
As George continues to drink to forget his troubles, he becomes engulfed in hilarious uncertainty about which play they’re actually performing, the confusion mostly caused by Charlotte’s deaf old stage-manager mother (the hysterical Rebecca Tudor) who hates every bone in George’s body. I could not stop laughing when George missed his entrance cue, on purpose of course, making poor Roz have to improv her way through the first balcony scene of “Private Lives” until he drunkenly entered as Cyrano with his nose askance. And then things went from bad to worse, generating laughs galore along the way!
Adding to the mix of confusion are Charlotte’s admirer, attorney Richard (Jack Stroud) and Roz’s lovesick ex-fiancé Paul (handsome and energetic Eric Pierce) who both add in the possibility of romantic entanglements that threaten to literally pull the rug out from under their feet. Will Charlotte and her daughter Roz desert poor George as he sinks into the depths of despair? I’m not telling, but do yourself a favor and go see this beloved wacky backstage comedy to find out for yourself.
Ken Ludwig’s outrageous farce “Moon Over Buffalo” continues at The Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Feb. 11. Reserved seat tickets are $23, or $20 for seniors and students, and may be ordered by calling 310-828-7519, or online at www.morgan-wixson.org. Due to language and subject matter, this comedy is recommended for ages 13 and older. Free parking is available just west of the theatre at the Venice Family Clinic.