Theater can serve as an opportunity to explore and provoke profound ideas and emotion. It also can serve as a brief respite from our day-to-day woes. If a little escapism is what you’re looking for during these dark, cold midwinter evenings, head on down to North Fork Community Theatre, where that vacation from reality, along with plenty of laughter, awaits.
George and Charlotte Hay, a once-famed acting couple, have been reduced to running their own traveling troupe, alternating “Cyrano De Bergerac” and “Private Lives” in repertory in Buffalo. George is quite happy to remain on stage, but Charlotte wants to go to Hollywood and be a movie star. Their daughter, Rosalind, who gave up the stage for a “normal life,” returns for a visit with her new fiancé, Howard, a television weatherman, right about when Charlotte discovers another of George’s dalliances — this time with Eileen, the company ingénue.
The troupe includes Charlotte’s nearly deaf mother, Ethel, and Paul, the stage manager and Rosalind’s former fiancé, who is still in love with her and wants her to return to the theater life. Richard, the company’s lawyer, also pays a visit, and we discover he is in love with Charlotte. Add to the mix a phone call from Hollywood informing them that Frank Capra will be at the matinee to consider them for the leads in his new movie.
Director Robert Horn and his producer, John Hudson, have put together a classic community theater cast, which covers a range from seasoned pros to nearly newbies. And this time, the mix works wonderfully, thanks to Mr. Horn’s guidance — and his funny-bone. There is much physical comedy in this play and it all comes together expertly.
Phil Eberhardt, known for his skillful dramatic work, is hilarious as the self-centered, womanizing George. He handles the lightning pace like the pro he is, and even makes the character more sympathetic than he deserves. Dee Martin, as Charlotte, complements Mr. Eberhardt’s level of performance. They are well-matched to play this kooky couple.
Mary Vienneau steals the stage each time she enters. Ethel says what’s on her mind, caustic or kind, and though sometimes Ethel’s responses when she can’t hear well provide some of the best laughs, it’s the times she does hear well and the others assume she cannot that bring down the house.
Ryan Farrell, as Paul, and Kelly Lynn Cassidy, as Rosalind, have a nice chemistry; you find yourself rooting for them to get back together. Christopher Smith brings a geeky goofiness to poor Howard, and his laugh is priceless. Lena Trbojevic is pretty and fitting as the innocent ingénue, Eileen, and Jim Pearsall does a fine job as the besotted lawyer, Richard.
Watching Ken Ludwig’s “Moon Over Buffalo” is what it must feel like to watch a hilarious sitcom filmed live. The players all look like they are having such a blast up there. I won’t name names, but an actor or two — and they know who they are — broke character once or twice and we caught them suppressing giggles, à la Jimmy Fallon on “Saturday Night Live.” This is something that actors themselves never want to do, but we in the audience absolutely love it. With the play’s fast pace and wacky action, we delight in seeing that the actors find the jokes as irresistibly funny as we do.
All the technical aspects were up to NFCT’s high standards, including Deanna Andes’ nostalgic costume design of the era and the flattering lighting design by David and Charles Scheer.
This production of “Moon Over Buffalo” is the perfect way to warm up a frigid winter’s eve!
‘Moon Over Buffalo’
North Fork Community Theatre, 12700 Old Sound Ave., Mattituck
Performances continue Jan. 23, 24, 30 and 31 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 25 and Feb. 1 at 2:30 p.m.
For tickets, visit nfct.com or call 631-298-NFCT (6328).