‘Moon Over Buffalo’ is an outstanding, comedic farce
Ken Ludwig’s “Moon Over Buffalo” opened recently at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre and is a marvelously wacky physical farce filled with witty dialogue punctuated by startled screams and slamming doors.
After two years of COVID-19 precautions, concerns and isolation, the house roared as Artistic Director Valerie Rachelle welcomed the audience to an evening of live, in person theater.
There’s nothing better than live theater.
The bloom has faded from the lives and careers of two actors who once saw the stars of Hollywood and now wander the tired routes of regional repertory theater. These days they’re in Buffalo, New York with matinée and evening productions of “Private Lives” and “Cyrano.” What a mess. George and Charlotte are broke, their actors have walked out, George goes off and gets drunk and Charlotte is ready to cast her lot with a steady, boring lawyer. Their beloved daughter Rosalind is engaged to Howard, a mouse given to hysterics. And then Frank Capra announces he’s coming to the matinée performance and all hell breaks loose. It’s a perfect plot for a magnificent farce.
Brik Berkes and Laurie Dawn play those two tired leads, George and Charlotte, with plenty of lusty swordplay in their Oregon Cabaret Theatre debut performance. Corny jokes, slapstick and sexual innuendo abound to delight the audience from the opening scene where their skirmish collapses into kisses. Berkes as George, is a careless, unconscionable and disloyal rogue while Dawn as Charlotte swans about with a regal toss of her head when she’s not stamping out the door, suitcase in hand. Is it theater they love, or each other? The romantic confusion between Rosalind, played by Rebecca Tucker, Howard, played by Samuel L. Wick and Paul, played by Nicholas Wilder, is pure comedic ardor with lots of ins and outs as a farce demands. All three have remarkably mobile faces that give both poignancy and hilarity to their performances. Sierra Wells as Eileen has that expressive mien as well, with an engaging screech to accentuate her scenes. She is certainly the wronged woman in this comedy.
Ashland actor Livia Genise steals the show in her role as Ethel, Charlotte’s hard of hearing mother. As Ethel, Genise gets almost everything wrong when she’s not wearing her hearing aids. She wanders about cleaning and serving and mending, doing her cockamamie best to muddle the mix and advance the script.
The Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s tall and narrow stage is ideal for farcical performances, and especially “Moon Over Buffalo” with its second stage on the mezzanine. There’s lots of room for physical comedy in that splendid schlocky setting. I thought I’d fall on the floor laughing when Nicholas Wilder as Paul careened up those stairs starting and stopping on command, and again later when Rebecca Tucker as
Rosalind barely managed to push the leaden, drunken weight of her father up the steps.
Well-deserved hat tips to costume designer Ryan J. Moller, set designer Jeannie Beirne and sound designer Kimberly Carbone for so nicely setting the stage, onstage and backstage at the Erlanger Theatre in Buffalo, New York in June 1953. Period clothing, that schlocky set and evocative mood music places the audience right there in the middle of it all, ready to hoot.
“Moon Over Buffalo,” directed by Galloway Stevens, is the second Ken Ludwig play recently produced at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. “Baskerville,” Ken Ludwig’s hilarious pastiche of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” directed by Rick Robinson was performed in 2017. As farcical comedies, these two Ken Ludwig plays are perfectly suited to the OCT stage.
Welcome back, Oregon Cabaret Theatre. We’ve missed you.
The Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s production of “Moon Over Buffalo” runs through April 10, with 8 p.m. performances Wednesdays through Saturdays and Mondays, and at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Themed menus, specialty cocktails and fine local wines are available. The play is suitable for all ages and runs about two hours with a 20-minute intermission. Tickets are $29-$43 or by subscription and are available online at OregonCaberet.com, by calling 541-488-2902 or at the 241 Hargadine Street box office in Ashland.