Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The year is 1953, an acting couple, the Hays are appearing in repertory tour of "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Private Lives". The problem is a drunken, George Hay is unsure what show is being done and film director, Frank Capra is in the audience. This backstage farce keeps the audience guessing at will happen. "Moon Over Buffalo" is the latest presentation by City Nights Dinner Theatre. Veteran director Cait Calvo leads her eight cast members on a merry romp leading to much laughter from the audience.
The married acting divas are played by Michael Thurber and Beth Jepson. Their opening scene consists of a wonderfully choreographed sword fight. (The stage built into the set is excellent and the two vignettes from "Cyrano" and "Private Lives" are the highlights of the show within a show.) Michael makes the megalomanic, drunken husband extremely funny throughout the evening. His rubbery legs and drunken pratfalls are brilliant and his crazed behavior as George is wonderful to behold. Michael's best moment is when he enters as Cyrano in the wrong show and keeps running in and out during the scene. His comic foil, Charlotte is played with great energy by Beth. She is a whirling dervish of emotions in this role and she delivers her one liners with ease. One of Beth's funniest lines is to her ungrateful daughter. She chides her saying she was a 12 pound baby with a big head leading to gales of laughter. These two performers deliver their shtick with great aplomb and make the absurdity of this farce work all through the night.
The funniest performer of the evening is Connie Altimus who plays Charlotte's deaf mother, Ethel. From the moment she makes her entrance to the closing scene, she is magnificent. Her timing and comic gestures are perfect as is the way she walks as the much older woman and when she makes Irish coffee instead of the regular coffee, it brings the house down. Connie makes her scenes work with all the characters she interacts with. Her best moment is when she tries to save the day in the "Private Lives" scene. She says she is the drunken Elliot's mother and he usually dresses up as Cyrano but being English, he's more likely to be dressed as Roxanne. What a hoot! Connie steals her scenes and receives the appreciation of an adoring audience at the end of the night.
Two other scene stealers are Brian Olsen as Howard and Robert Reynolds as Paul. They are both interested in Rosalind the Hay's daughter. Howard is a weatherman on TV and he keeps getting the door slammed in his face. In a case of mistaken identity, Howard is thought to be a crazed soldier as well as Frank Capra, himself. Brian makes this character madcap and funny with his line delivery and comic timing and facial expressions. Robert plays the overworked stage manager and actor of the troupe. He has to babysit the drunken George. Robert's manic movements and his constantly catching George or throwing Howard into and out of the closet are timed perfectly.
Rounding out the cast are Andrea Tosone as Rosalind(she steps into "Private Lives" and has to adlib when her drunken father doesn't enter on time), Tania Montenegro as Eileen, George's pregnant girlfriend and Al Elkins as Richard, the boorish lawyer who loves Charlotte.(Al choreographed the swordfight segment making it look very realistic.) A word of praise to stage manager, Kathy Shurtleff who keeps things moving smoothly, to Dave Jepson for the set design of a stage on the stage of a backstage dressing room set and to Kyle Peltier for the lighting and set construction assisted by Kathy. You also get an all you can eat delicious roast chicken dinner, with salad, mashed potatoes, string beans and carrots with ice cream and coffee for dessert from Leo's Catering. So for a fun filled summer evening go to "Moon Over Buffalo" in an airconditioned theatre.