Phoenix Stage Company, Oakville: When Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo opened on Broadway, it starred one of the all-time great comedians — Carol Burnett. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her hilarious performance. The play is one of Ludwig’s funniest and ranks as high if not higher than the playwright’s Lend Me a Tenor. However, this farce doesn’t need to have star power to shine. It does need seriously good acting with an emphasis on comic timing. Phoenix Stage Company’s director Lori Poplin has pulled together the perfect cast for this show. It is almost impossible not to laugh out loud at this truly funny farce.
Set in 1953, when television was coming into its own and supposedly presented a threat to live theater, George and Charlotte Hays find themselves performing in repertory in Buffalo, N.Y. These two actors feel as though their acting careers are failing, especially since they didn’t get cast in a new movie directed by none other than Frank Capra. Adding insult to injury, Charlotte discovers that her husband George has been fooling around with the company’s ingénue. Their daughter Rosalind, who used to act but has opted for a more “normal” life wants her fiancé, a nerdy weatherman, to meet her parents. As is typical in a farce, there is mistaken identity as well as coming and going through doors. Add to this Charlotte’s near deaf mother as costumer and audiences continually find themselves laughing at the on and off stage antics these actors experience.
Laura Sturges-Cortez is wickedly good as Charlotte. She has impeccable timing and responds to every actor on the stage so convincingly with facial expressions and body language that it’s as if she were meant to play this role. So too, Payton Turpin who plays her husband George really gets into his character’s skin as he tries to worm his way out of trouble. When he tries to drown his sorrow in alcohol and becomes so drunk that he doesn’t realize that Frank Capra is actually coming to the show to see George’s performance, the play moves up a notch from very funny to hilarious.
Rosemary Howard as the near-deaf mother delivers a priceless performance. Her timing is phenomenal as is Tim Phillips who keeps showing his acting prowess in show after show. Brian Elser as the geek who can’t get used to a theatrical family does a fine job of being nervous and awkward. Kristin Moresi and Daniel R. Willey are terrific as former lovers who haven’t gotten over each other, and Becky Venable as the ingénue is delightful.
If you’re tired of listening to constant political commentary, tired of the same ol’ same ol’ television shows, then treat yourself to this uplifting comedy. It’s one of those laugh so hard, you cry productions. It plays through May 5. Box office: 860-417-2505.
Joanne Greco Rochman was a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and is currently an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.