Thursday, February 21, 2013

SVSU's "Moon Over Buffalo" charms with its words and physicality

From left, Keith Schnabel, Amanda Moths, Cassidy Morey, Lexee Longwell and Isaac Wood

review and photographs by Janet I. Martineau

Frank Capra meets William Shakespeare.

Half the cast performing “Cyrano” and the other half “Private Lives.”

Backstage shenanigans galore and four doors leading to it.

Yep, Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo,” which opened Wednesday at Saginaw Valley State University, sounds like a farce and is a farce -- one that also is ode to the love of theater and movies.

The more you know about theater, and to a lesser degree movies, the more charmed you will be with this production directed by Richard B. Roberts -- like one set of dialogue using the titles of Capra movies, with the music playing pre-show, and with the Jerry Dennis set design and all of its 1950s era artifacts. 

Rusty Myers

Playwright Ludwig leaves no stone unturned into mining everything into farce -- a hard-of-hearing woman, a veteran acting couple involved in affairs, a mistaken identity, confusion on which play is to be performed, their  daughter with two boyfriends. And it all goes faster and faster, and gets more and more involved, until it in one fell swoop  rights itself.

Rusty Myers and Cassidy Morey play the veteran acting couple, and there is a HUGE amount of physical activity on the part of Myers. He must be exhausted at the end of the show having been beaten by his wife with a copy of Variety, gotten drunk and devoid of most of his clothes, fallen off the stage, fallen onto the couch, wandered in and out of all the doors. 

This is his show, really...he is the driving force with it more than the rest of the cast... and he delivers 100 percent.

Another goody in the cast is Amanda Moths as the hard of hearing and elderly mother of Morey’s character. She has a tart tongue, totters around the stage, and is a hoot with  what she heard vs. what was really said because of her suffering ears. Moths, though she is but a collegian, plays elderly well.

The rest of the cast handles the slamming doors section with a spot on sense of timing as well as the  other cuckoo demands of the script very well -- in particular Morey, Lexee Longwell as the visiting daughter and Dakotah Myers as one of her two boyfriends.

Many farces are more about physical action than the words spoken. This one is different in that, since it is spoofing theater and movies, the words actually play an equal role. Thankfully all the cast members speak them with clarity and conviction, making the words almost funnier that the play’s physical action.

At one point the Rusty Myers character mutters that his company is the House of Usher Repertory Theater. So make sure you hone in on every word in the script .

Can’t say much more than that so as not to spoil the fun of the storyline and action. Suffice it to say well directed, well acted, well costumed and staged, and a great light night  of madcap fun at the theater.

“Moon Over Buffalo” plays through Sunday.

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