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‘Moon Over Buffalo’ big, broad fun with BCT

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‘Moon Over Buffalo’ big, broad fun with BCT (photo courtesy Bangor Community Theatre)

BANGOR – There’s no business like show business. And when you have a show about show business? Well – the show must go on. And on. And on…

Bangor Community Theatre is presenting “Moon Over Buffalo,” a comedy by Ken Ludwig, on their home stage at the Bangor Grange Hall. The show – directed by Irene Dennis – runs through Nov. 24.

It’s the story of two aging actors, touring the hinterlands with a pair of classic stage plays in the 1950s. However, when an unexpected opportunity presents the possibility of a return to glory, the pair will do whatever it takes to make it happen – no matter what.

The year is 1953. The Hays - George (Blane Shaw) and Charlotte (Marty Kelley) – were once one of America’s most beloved acting couples. They were stars of stage and screen, famous and adored. But those days are behind them now; the pair are eking out a living with a repertory tour, having assembled a small company of actors to perform rotation productions of Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” and Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac.” Charlotte’s mostly deaf mother Ethel (Doreen Moody) serves as the costumer, while Paul Singer (Sam Hallman) works as both the company manager and a player.

George and Charlotte get a surprise when their daughter Rosalind (Christina Wallace) turns up for a surprise visit. Once an actor, Roz has given up the spotlight in an effort to live a normal life – a life that includes her fiancé Howard (Philip Kelley), a TV weatherman. The hope is to introduce Howard to her family, but it doesn’t take long before the usual Hays chaos sweeps everyone up into the maelstrom.

See, Roz and Paul used to be an item, but they broke up when Roz decided to leave show business. So there’s that. Also, it seems that George’s dalliance with Eileen (Melissa Egolf), a young actress in the company, has led to some unexpected consequences. Plus, there’s Richard Maynard (James Tatgenhorst), the Hays’ lawyer, a wealthy man who has some strong and as-yet-unrequited feelings for Charlotte.

Against this lunatic backdrop, some astonishing news: legendary film director Frank Capra has lost the two leads – Ronald Colman and Greer Garson, no less – of his latest picture, titled “The Twilight of the Scarlet Pimpernel.” Desperate for quality leads, Capra informs George’s agent that he will be flying to Buffalo to take in a matinee in order to see if George (and by extension Charlotte) will fit his needs.

Of course, it won’t be that easy.

Frantically, the group tries to get it together in order to put on a show suitable for Mr. Capra, all while dodging the fallout of affairs gone by and yet to come, as well as torn costumes, drunken performers and one rather unfortunate case of mistaken identity. Can these relationships be mended in time for the curtain to go up? Oh, and speaking of … which show is it that they’re supposed to do today? Is it “Private Lives” or “Cyrano”?

“Moon Over Buffalo” is a popular choice among community theatre groups. And for good reason - it is a funny and heartfelt piece, packed with zaniness and slapstick. Plus, there’s a real and genuine affection for the theatre itself, for the artistic value and intrinsic emotional connection that comes from putting on a play. The dialogue is snappy and silly, while there are a number of opportunities to indulge in some madcap physicality as well.

This show’s success starts with its central pairing. Blane Shaw cuts a fine figure as George, equal parts dashing and doofus. His energy is relentless, pinning the needle in a manner that is fun to watch. Marty Kelley matches that manic energy, delighting in Charlotte’s histrionics and occasionally venturing into a Joan Crawford-esque wide-eyed intensity that works well. The two of them together capture the ever-escalating nature of the Hays’ relationship.

Doreen Moody shines as the brash and brassy (and wonderfully expressive) Ethel, cranking up the volume whenever she hits the stage. Christina Wallace finds some lovely nuance as Roz, while Sam Hallman embodies the frantic, frazzled attitude of anyone who has ever tried to make a theatre company go both on- and off-stage. Those two have some lovely moments as well. Melissa Egolf charms as the young actress Eileen, while Philip Kelley gives a nerved-up and nervous take on poor, put-upon Howard. And James Tatgenhorst gets some of the show’s biggest laughs through the note-perfect dryness of his delivery.

Director Dennis has done good work bringing the physicality of the show to life. “Moon Over Buffalo” has plenty of great lines – and Dennis has guided her cast to find those laughs, of course – but it is in that physicality that the comedy shines through the brightest. It is through sight gags and slapstick that the farcical nature of the show works most effectively – and thanks to Dennis and her crew, it works nicely here.

Bangor Community Theatre has displayed a real esprit de corps in its recent offerings, illustrating the joy that comes from community theatre. “Moon Over Buffalo” is a perfect choice for the group, as it revolves around passion for the stage, a passion shared by all the people who work so hard to make BCT happen. It’s another quality production from a hardworking group – and if you’re looking for a laugh or three, you’ll almost certainly find them here.

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 November 2019 06:49

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