Winter in March is one of the worst parts about living in Buffalo. One of our few solaces is escaping to somewhere else, especially through a theatrical production. While Niagara Regional Theatre Guild’s “Moon Over Buffalo” doesn’t take you to a place far from home, it’s filled with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments to make you forget about the nastiness outside.
Fewer things are more enjoyable than a well done slapstick comedy, and ‘Moon Over Buffalo’ is a thankfully successful example.
Ken Ludwig’s play centers on George and Charlotte Hay, two flamboyantly overdramatic actors touring with their theater troupe (currently stationed in Buffalo, NY) in hopes of finally becoming successful movie actors. After their daughter Rosalind drops into town, it seems as if their dreams will come true when George receives word that Frank Capra is coming to see their matinee performance. But the reveal of a scandalous secret and constant miscommunication among the cast, including a hard-of-hearing grandmother and fanatic weatherman, lead to some hilarious results.
While Buffalo itself was the butt of many of the early jokes leading to some sassy ooh’s from the audience, they appeared to love being in on the joke that Fran Newtown and Dawn Marcolini-Newton, the well-known “First Family” of NRTG, got to play against each other as George and Charlotte. Their real-life relationship was evident in their good chemistry and made it enjoyable when their egotistical characters battled it out – both verbally and with swords. Newton especially shines in George’s exaggerated monologues and movements, with just the right amount of theatricality to sell the character without annoying the audience.
Sarah Fratello is the Hays’ daughter, Rosalind. Fratello excels at balancing Rosalind’s disdain for working in the theater (which she left along with her ex-boyfriend, Paul, the company manager, in order to lead a more normal life) and her love for her family, which occasionally manifests as a love for the stage. She especially shines when being forced into a performance of Noel Coward’s “Private Lives,” hilariously delivering deadpan lines in rehearsal opposite a charming Ryan Morgan as Paul and later deliciously overacting a two-person scene alone onstage.
Amy Jorrisch plays Ethel, the mostly hard-of-hearing mother of Charlotte. She is nothing less than amazing, delivering seething hatred for George and handling some of the funniest moments in the show without cracking a smile. John Szablewski also makes a memorable appearance as Howard, Rosalind’s new fiancé, local TV weatherman and enthusiastic fan of George and Charlotte. When all these elements combine upon his first meeting with the couple, Szablewski is the perfect storm of physical slapstick and facial expressions to make a memorable character.
One of the things I look forward to most at NRTG is how they will make the most of the turntable they installed a few seasons ago. Their sets are often well decorated and feel complete, and despite a more intimate stage setup than other theaters (if you sit on the right side of the audience, you might as well be on stage), they accomplish quite a bit thanks to that impressive turntable.
Fewer things are more enjoyable than a well done slapstick comedy, and ‘Moon Over Buffalo’ is a thankfully successful example. If you’re up for a hilarious night at the theater, I’d hurry up and get a ticket as the remaining matinee performances are already sold out.
Running Time: 2 Hours with a 15-minute intermission.
“Moon Over Buffalo” runs until March 31, 2019 at the Ellicott Creek Playhouse. For more information, click here.