perfect: (l-r) Norton, Younger, Hayden and Hans in Moon
Ken Ludwig, directed by Melissa Putterman-Hoffman
Home Made Theater, through Oct. 26
If I tell you that the set of Moon Over Buffalo has
five doors, all evenly spaced, and that the sound of pants
ripping is heard throughout the evening, you should get a
pretty good idea of what kind of a romantic comedy were
dealing with here. Playwright Ken Ludwigs backstage
farce is a close cousin of shows like Kiss Me Kate,
which get their energy from the depiction of the less-than-glamorous,
messy aspects of actors on tour. But as with all good variations
on a well-worn theme, theres a twist.
Shakespeare did, Ludwig has actually set his seemingly historical
piece in the present. The identified year is 1953: Theatrical
dynasties like the Lunts are on the way out, the golden age
of big-budget Hollywood studio productions is growing old,
and that scourge called television is luring Americans
away from the live stage. But because Ludwig writes with a
modern sensibility, jokes, turns of phrase, even a whole subplot
that never would have been dreamed of in an American comedy
actually written in the 50s slip in at regular intervals.
effect is sometimes jarring, but the fact is that Moon
Over Buffalo just
wouldnt work without the anachronisms. And since it
undeniably does work in Home Made Theaters production
(and with a vengeance), who am I to quibble?
Melissa Putterman-Hoffmanns cast bite into their roles
with relish, and the companys comic timing is flawless.
George (Greg Younger) and Charlotte Hay (Sari Bobbin)whose
faces grace the cover of a Life magazine hanging over
the backstage phone of a nondescript theater in downtown Buffalofear
their chance at stardom is gone; still they cling to the dream
of careers like Ronald Colemans and Greer Garsons.
in his booming baritone, and HMT regular Bobbin, in her cool
platinum-blond self-absorption, affect the kind of aristocratic,
pseudo-English accents so noticeable in movies of that era.
Youngers eye-widening dramatics alonenot to mention
his version of the standard drunken scenemake half the
Hans as Charlottes mother, Ethel the wardrobe mistress,
makes up nearly the other half. Though Ludwig derives several
jokes from Ethels deafness, Hans physicality and
wry delivery of her offhand observations make the device superfluous.
Hays daughter Rosalind (Shannon Hayden) vows to give
up this colorful but tumultuous existence for life in plain
black-and-white, working in advertising. She must choose between
old flame Paul (Daniel Norton), the companys manager,
and Howard the TV weatherman (Heath Hanley). Hanley has the
fresh-scrubbed innocence of a Matthew Broderick, but Nortons
Paul is pretty whitebread himselfespecially compared
to dashingly rakish George.
out the talented cast are Shenendehowa High School senior
Krista DeNovio as Eileen, the vulnerable ingénue, and
Rick Wissler as Richard, the Hays big New York lawyer
who half-jokingly tries to win Charlotte away from George.
sprawling set by William E. Fritz, thrusting out into what
is normally the first few rows of the orchestra, serves its
purpose without getting in the way; all those doors provide
a satisfying slam when needed. David Yergans best lighting
comes out for the onstage balcony above, on which
the players alternate between the swashbuckling of Cyrano
de Bergerac and the sophisticated banter of Private
Boyntons costumes perfectly fulfill their role of making
the period and the character instantly identifiable, without
distracting from the action (except for Charlottes to-die-for
feathered cloche). Moon Over Buffalo is predictable
in the best way: It delivers what it promises, with gusto.