With the silly season kicking in, Hunters Hill Theatre Company has made an astute choice for its final production of the year. The Company is currently running a revival of American playwright Ken Ludwig’s fast and frothy farce, MOON OVER BUFFALO (1995). Many will know this playwright for his better known work, ‘Lend Me A Tenor’.
This Ludwig play is set back in 1953 and takes place, mainly, on stage and backstage at the Erlanger Theatre in Buffalo. The short story to the narrative is that the main characters, acting couple George and Charlotte Hay, run a travelling theatre company. The play starts with them touring with two shows in rep, ‘Private Lives’ and ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ (a one nostril version).
Their lives go into overdrive when they hear that a leading Hollywood film director is intending to come and see their show. Whilst George is content being a theatre actor, Charlotte is over the moon, pun intended, that Mr Capra is paying a visit. She has bigger ambitions and sees his visit as an opportunity for her to land a major film role. Charlotte starts running around, trying to organise everyone to make sure that the Company puts on its best possible performance. Comic chaos ensues.
First thing to say. Here is another clever, albeit at times ridiculous comedy, that takes place in the theatre world. A classic of this genre is Michael Frayn’s classic ‘Noises Off’. It does make a lot of sense – so many comic even outrageous possibilities/moments can arise in the brave, wonderful world of live performance.
Ludwig finds many of these moments in the play. Such as when Charlotte and colleagues try and wake up a totally smashed George and get him ready to perform in the upcoming matinee. Things get even more difficult and crazier, as after after George rallies from his stupor he decides that he will go on stage as Cyrano de Bergerac when he is supposed to be playing the lead role in Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives’, the other play the Company are doing in repertory.
Christopher Hamilton directs this comic souffle well and the cast convincingly play their quirky characters who are the rich source of much of the play’s comedy.
Dean Nicholson plays the cantankerous, licentious George Hay. Liz Grindley, mainly dressed in a bright red dress, gives a very energetic performance as George’s ambitious wife, Charlotte, who is fed up with George’s ways but can’t quite make the break!
Jenny Jacobs makes the most of some of the play’s best comic moments as Charlotte’s dotty, elderly, hard of hearing mother, Ethel. (Jenny dons a gray wig to age herself for the part). Favourite moments are when, in error, she pours brandy into George’s coffee cup thereby ensuring that George’s attempt at sobriety will be very short lived!, and when, in an aside to the audience, she says, ‘being here is like living in an asylum, and all the guards are on a day off.’
Anna Desjardins delivers a warm, appealing performance as George and Charlotte’s attractive, grown up daughter, Rosalind, who is not short of male admirers! As well as getting to play a pretty cute pashing scene with stage manager and ex fiance Paul, her character ends up getting caught in her parents’ world of theatre again, even though she had vowed to move on from it.
Dimitri Armatas, a frequent and reliable performer on the Sydney community theatre scene, plays the stressed out yet good natured stage manager, Paul, who is still smitten with his ex, Rosalind.As is weatherman Howard, played with deft comic touch by Jack Mitchell.
Robert Sharpe plays suave lawyer Richard who Charlotte has waiting in the wings if she ever gets up the gumption to leave George. Samantha Lemon makes a brief but impactful appearance as Eileen, one of George’s one suspects many one night stands.
Christopher Hamilton’s compact set is essentially of the backstage area with framed posters of shows on the walls. Props serve to tell/cue the audience when the Company is actually ‘in performance’.
Summing up, this is a fun, fast paced, over the top comedy that is neatly performed. Hamilton keeps up the farcical tone even to past the end, with cast members using all of the different doors to come back out on stage to take their bows.
MOON OVER BUFFALO is only playing a short season at Hunters Hill Town Hall. The remaining performances are Friday December 8 at 7.30pm, Saturday December 9 at 2pm and 7.30pm and Sunday December 10 at 2pm.