by Jessica Martin

L-R front - Susan Dewey, Paul Weagraff, Mike Bracken, Kimberly Valde Curless, Kaylan Wetzel Acon, Matt Reher and Sarah Gafgen star in the Ritz Theatre's MOON OVER BUFFALO, running in Oaklyn NJ through October 8. (Photo credit: Chris Miller)

There is no moon in Ken Ludwig’s MOON OVER BUFFALO, only plenty of looniness. And, despite the awesome stuffed bison outside the Ritz Theatre, “Buffalo” refers to the city in New York where the hilarious action takes place in the year 1953. A stage-weary troupe of actors is trying to present CYRANO DE BERGERAC and Noel Coward’s PRIIVATE LIVES in repertory. The leading actors are George and Charlotte Hay (Mikey Bracken and Kimberly Valde Curless), an oft-quarrelsome married couple. George is content to stay in live theatre, but Charlotte wants to be a movie star. She is envious when she reads that Hollywood director Frank Capra has cast Greer Garson and Ronald Colman in his new movie, TWILIGHT OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL (sounds kind of contemporary, doesn’t it?). Later, while she is out, George learns that Colman has broken his leg, Garson has walked out, and Capra is coming to this afternoon’s show to consider George and Charlotte as replacements.

However, Charlotte does not believe him when he tells her this. She has learned that George has had an affair with the company ingénue, Eileen (Sarah J. Gafgen), who is now pregnant as a result. Furious, she runs off with her lawyer, Richard (Paul Weagraff), who is clearly in love with her. George goes out to drown his misery in alcohol. Meanwhile, the couple’s daughter Rosalind (Kaylan Wetzel Acom) has arrived to introduce her new fiancé, Howard (Carl Smith). She was formerly engaged to the stage manager, Paul (Matthew Reber), but wants to get away from the theatre—or so she thinks. Charlotte, having heard the news about Capra, returns, and she and Rosalind start a frantic search for George. Poor Howard, left alone in the crazy backstage world, is mistaken for Capra by Charlotte’s nearly-deaf mother, Ethel (Susan Dewey). Charlotte returns and, thinking she has met Capra, gives him the royal treatment, leaving him more bewildered than ever.

George eventually shows up in a highly inebriated state, and frantic attempts to sober him up before show time go from bad to worse. The show goes on, and what happens on stage has to be seen to be believed. Suffice it to say that it is uproariously funny.

Although George is a third-rate actor and worse husband, audiences can’t help liking him as played by veteran Ritz actor Michael (Mikey) Bracken. His stumbling, pratfalls and strange positions evoke laughter and applause from the audience. Kimberly Valde Curless is superbly ambitious, tempestuous and eventually tender as Charlotte. The supporting cast, especially Susan Dewey as Ethel, is excellent. Bracken and Dewey have appeared together in this play twice before, when she played Charlotte. Al Fuchs has directed at an appropriate breakneck pace. And the costumes and the backstage/onstage set are a delight to the eyes.

by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Al Fuchs
September 23, 24 and 30 and October 1, 7 and 8 at 8 PM
September 25 and October 2 at 2 PM
October 2 at 7:30 PM
Ritz Theatre
915 White Horse Pike
Haddon Township, NJ 08107

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