Moon Over Buffalo | Insight Theatre Company

moon-over-buffalo 75This comedy did manage to make me giggle a few times, but there was much more to love about the show than the humor.

 

 

 

The Insight Theatre Company’s artistic director Maggie Ryan’s note in the program promises that Moon Over Buffalo will have you “laughing so hard your sides ache.” While this certainly wasn’t the case, this comedy did manage to make me giggle a few times, but there was much more to love about this show than the humor.

Moon Over Buffalo tells the story of a traveling theatre troupe in 1953. The star actors of the company, spouses George (Alan Knoll) and Charlotte Hay (Jenni Ryan), are struggling financially, since movies and television have taken away the theatre’s popularity. They also struggle with what they believe to be the beginning of age discrimination, or simply the fact that they are getting older and less desirable as actors (both are probably in their early 50s). We later find out that not only are finances hurting, but so is their marriage. Neither person has been completely faithful, and it’s only a matter of time before each finds out what the other has done. Though this sounds dramatic (and it is, at times), it’s played off in a more comical way, for the audience to see what crazy things both George and Charlotte have been up to and plan to do in the future. The two have an only child, a daughter named Rosalind (Sam Auch) who has relationship problems of her own. She’s newly engaged to her anxiety-ridden fiancé Howard (Will Bonfiglio), who is about to meet Rosalind’s parents for the first time. All the while, Rosalind runs into her ex-boyfriend Paul (Pete Winfrey), since he works for her parents and the theatre company. Tensions build, things go haywire, and comedy emerges.

What I immediately noticed (and was amazed by) was the elaborate set design for this play. For such a small stage (the play was performed at the Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall), the set was absolutely incredible. It consisted of four doors (of which all were entered and exited through), a latter up to a second story closet, a couch, a chair, and a few tables. Sounds pretty average, right? Wrong. Because what was truly amazing was the lavish walls—wallpaper spread over each one, only to be topped with shelves, posters, picture frames, chalkboards, candles, etc. It seemed as if every time I looked at the walls of the set design, I noticed something new. This definitely worked in favor of the play, since there was only one set for its entirety, and an average set would have gotten too boring to look at the whole time. Because there was so much going on in the design, it easily could have felt cluttered, yet it didn’t. It was obvious that a lot of thought and work went into making this beautiful set, as everything looked to be exactly where it should be. I truly commend anyone who worked on this set design, as it was perhaps the best set design on a small stage that I have ever seen.

As lovely as the set was, there must be more good things about a production to make it a great play. Fortunately, there was. While I did enjoy the story itself, the actors are the ones who brought it to life. Knoll and Ryan seemed like old pros, and I was truly impressed with their ease and professionalism on the stage (and I was sold by Knoll’s performance in the scenes where his character George was terribly drunk). Really, the two stars of the show were the best actors, yet I feel that every actor deserves some credit. Everyone pulled their weight, and you can’t have a great show without great supporting actors. Specifically, I feel that Auch’s performance as Rosalind is worth mentioning. And certainly the performance that made me laugh the most came from Tommy Nolan as Ethel, Charlotte’s elderly mother with awful hearing loss.

Something else that made this play special was the small cast (only eight actors ever took the stage). This way, it was easy to get to know each character deeply, to the point where you cared about what happened to them. This character development, of course, is a result of the combination of the script and great acting.

Few technical errors occurred throughout the performance. However, I did find that the minimal sound effects used were low-quality, which was distracting. That was frustrating, but it was also pretty much the only thing that I didn’t enjoy about this play. | Emily Van de Riet

Moon Over Buffalo runs from July 24 – August 9 with the Insight Theatre Company. For ticket information, visit http://insighttheatrecompany.com/shows/moon-over-buffalo-2015/

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