BLOOMSBURG - The professional Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble kicks off its 35th anniversary season with a rip-roaring production of "Moon Over Buffalo."
Ken Ludwig's frantic farce has 7:30 performances Thursday through Saturday with 3 p.m. Sunday matinees now through Oct. 21 in the Alvina Kruase Theatre, 226 Center St.
This reviewer was surprised when BTE selected the broad comedy "Murder at Howard Johnson's" as one of last season's attractions. Presenting populist comedies in consecutive years proves that everyone loves a good farce, so "Moon Over Buffalo" is the solid choice to lead off the 2012-13 season.
The professional Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble kicks off its 35th anniversary season with a rip-roaring production of “Moon Over Buffalo.” Ken Ludwig’s frantic farce has 7:30 performances Thursday through Saturday with 3 p.m. Sunday matinees now through Oct. 21 in the Alvina Kruase Theatre, 226 Center St.
Ken Ludwig is a contemporary playwright who has been popular with local and area theater groups in recent years. Williamsport's Community Theatre League and BTE presented Ludwig's "Leading Ladies" just months apart a few years ago and Mill Hall's Millbrook Playhouse chose his "Lend Me A Tenor" as last summer's leadoff Cabaret attraction.
There are some similar comedic situations between "Lend Me A Tenor" and "Moon Over Buffalo," with both serving huge doses of drunkeness, deception, mistaken identities and lots of slamming doors. It's 1953, and George and Charlotte Hay are fading stage stars, married to each other and to their love of the theater. But falling upon tough times and playing to ever dwindling audiences at Buffalo's Erlanger Theatre, they still dream of a film career while rotating performances of "Cyrano De Bergerac" and "Private Lives."
Mayhem ensues when, almost simultaneously, Charlotte decides to leave George after reading in Variety that he has impregnated the young ingenue Eileen, their daughter Rosalind's nerdy fiance arrives and is mistaken for Frank Capra, who is coming to Buffalo to view a matinee and perhaps cast George in his new movie "The Scarlett Pimpernel."
George reacts to his wife's running off with their lawyer by tossing barbs at Charlotte's deaf mother Ethel and getting really soused. The highlight of the fast-paced comedy is in Act II when George stumbles out on stage in his Cyrano costume while the rest of the panicky cast are decked out in their "Private Lives" finery.
Like the other backstage farce, "Noises Off," which also shows that life backstage can be funnier than what's happening onstage, BTE's cast playing colorful, downright goofy characters makes "Moon Over Buffalo" a constant laughfest.
BTE's Daniel Roth and Elizabeth Dowd are George and Charlotte, both hilarious in their over-the-top antics, with Roth's drunken behavior and Dowd's facial expressions triggering laughter.
Some of the best banter comes from Laurie McCants as Ethel, looking like a cross between Vicki Lawrence's Mama and the late Gilda Radner. James Goode has a small-but-important role as Richard, the family lawyer ready to whisk Charlotte away from her life on the wicked stage.
Cassandra Piseczko is daughter Rosalind - sought after both by her finance Paul (Rich Cannaday) and her current one (Eric Wunsch), a TV weatherman who is mistaken for a hitman.
Guest artist Samantha Norton is the ditzy ingenue Eileen who also oversees the play's swordplay. Overseeing the horseplay from the director's chair is Andrew Hubatsek, finely squeezing all the silliness and melodramatics from the cast.
Special mention should be made for the good-looking detailed set, the Erlanger Theatre's backstage green room and the stage where all the calamity occurs. If one looks carefully at the arch above the stage, there is an embossed logo that looks suspiciously like BTE's.
The show program notes the significance of certain set pieces and furniture, some of which was used in previous productions and a chair placed at "stage left." This A.K. chair was one upon which BTE's founder Alvina Krause sat while instructing her students. Now in the 35th year, it's apparent that this unique resident ensemble has learned its lessons well.
It will be many moons before theatregoers will see a more hilariously entertaining farce than "Moon Over Buffalo."
For ticket information, call 784-8181 or 800-282-0283.