The backstage farce follows the exploits of George and Charlotte Hay, a pair of fading stars, desperate to translate their success on the stage to the silver screen.
A new film by legendary director, Frank Capra may be the answer to their prayers. Unfortunately, while opportunity is about to knock, George is having an affair with an ingénue, Charlotte is having an affair with her lawyer, their daughter who was once in a relationship with the company stage manager has returned with a fiancé, and Charlotte’s deaf mother is causing all sorts of trouble. Add an unexpected pregnancy, mistaken identity, and copious quantities of Irish coffee, and all hell is about to break loose in Buffalo.
Director Nick Mercer adeptly maneuvers his solid ensemble in and out through slamming doors, with blocking that effectively utilized the space, allowing for a continual development of the plays pace and rhythm. He worked with his cast to develop subtle details that helped reveal character and establish relationships.
The sweet and innocent ‘tickling’ moment between George and Charlotte in Act 1 allowed us to see that, despite their recent actions, they did at some point genuinely care for one another and this is essential when it comes to an audience caring about what happens to the couple. The ensemble was solid throughout and as the evening progressed the actors seemed to physically allow themselves to sink into their characters, adopting a physicality that served the play well. Each actor had moments that allowed them to shine and no actor in any way pulled focus from their partners. Seeing Michelle Dove release her inner diva is a theatrical pleasure. The inebriated George was a comedic delight. The set design was modest and practical and provided enough space for the frantic pace demanded by the farce and enough physical obstacles to make traversing that space a challenge.
In a farce, every item on stage has the potential to be mined for its full and glorious comedic potential. This was shown to great effect when George attempted to mount a chaise lounge chair as if he were straddling an unruly squid. The set’s neutral colour palate also proved effective as it allowed the lovely costumes, designed by Brenda Chaytor, with assistance from Sharon Skinner and Paula Fudge, to leap off the stage. The effective costume choices combined with the set dressing by Jeanne Collins helped to transport us back to the 1950s.
While the script itself is in many ways weaker than similar plays, such as “Noises Off” and “Boeing Boeing,” the Avion Players were still able to stage a very solid production.
A good farce is like an intense, incredibly focused dance that requires great precision, energy, and timing.
In this production, you feel as if the actors are all moving in the right direction, and you just want them to take that extra risk and push things a little further. I saw glimpses of this throughout, and it just made me want more.
Overall, “Moon Over Buffalo” was a terrific way to launch this year’s festival.