Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot is set in 1953 and centers on a theatrical couple, George and Charlotte Hay, who are past their prime and find their once famous careers fading, along with their audiences, while they perform two plays in repertory in Buffalo, New York. Both are determined to still find success in the movies and through a freak Hollywood filming accident it looks like they may get their chance. However, promiscuity, drunkenness, temper tantrums, and a supporting cast of colorful charactersincluding Charlotte's always irritable mother Ethel, their daughter Rosalind who once acted with her parents and has returned for a visit with her new fiancé in tow, and their devoted stage manager Paul who manages his way through whatever is thrown at himcontinually get in the way. Ludwig also adds moments of mistaken identity, confusion, and slapstick into the mix.
Director Dan Ashlock does a good job of ensuring that the pacing of the lunacy moves along at a fast clip, but he also doesn't let the performances become too broad or over the top. His cast all achieve a nice 1950s style tone in their line readings that is slightly more heightened than a modern way of speaking, which helps evoke the period and setting of the play. They also throw themselves into their parts with complete conviction and achieve a nice lunacy during the well-choreographed and tight timing of the more farcical moments.
As George and Charlotte, Ted Frumkin and KatiBelle Collins are both quite good. They form a realistic couple who alternate between moments of love for each other and other times filled with rage and snippy compliments. The two manage their way through the ups and downs of the plot with ease. Frumkin evokes the right demeanor and swagger of a leading man who still thinks he can bed any ingénue, while Collins is lovely as the larger than life actress who still thinks she can play the ingénue. While the end result is very good and the two work well together and also provide moments of charm and love toward each other and the other people in their characters' lives, Frumkin a bit forced in an extended scene in which he must appear to be intoxicated.
The rest of the cast rise to the level of Frumkin and Collins' heightened delivery, with Brooke Flores perfectly grounded as the sensible Rosalind and Eric Bond full of spunk as the soft-spoken Paul. Also, Lynn Golden is very funny as the hard-of-hearing Ethel, who has some of the best zingers in the script, and Tucker O'Neill does an excellent job as the nerdy, shy, and overly excitable Howard, Rosalind's fiancé.
Creative elements are fine, with Ashlock and Matt Stetler's set design a serviceable backstage setting and Mickey Courtney's costumes a nice mix of backstage period clothing and on-stage attire for the two plays the troupe is performing, Private Lives and Cyrano de Bergerac,
Full of snappy dialogue and vibrant, humorous characters, Moon Over Buffalo is a deliciously funny and well-constructed backstage farce that has many moments of sheer lunacy but also an abundance of warmth. With a talented cast and confident direction, Desert Stages' production is bright and breezy and with lots of laughs.
Moon Over Buffalo runs through July 24th, 2016, at Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale. For more information and tickets, call 480 483-1664 or visit desertstages.org.
Written by Ken Ludwig