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‘Moon Over Buffalo’ at St. Mark’s Players

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St. Mark’s Players mount a hilarious production of the farce Moon Over Buffalo by local playwright Ken Ludwig. This play marked Carol Burnett’s return to Broadway in the ‘90s, and it is two funny and fast-paced plays within a play. Two aging stars perform Cyrano de Bergerac and Private Lives in repertory get the chance to perform for a big Hollywood director. It doesn’t go exactly as planned.

The cast in rehearsal. Photo courtesy of St. Mark's Players.

The cast in rehearsal. Photo courtesy of St. Mark’s Players.

John Henderson (George Hay) plays one aging star and his drunken antics in the second act and his over-the-top style is perfect as the chaos ramps up.

Kirstin Apker (Charlotte Hay) is a standout, bringing needed gravitas to the stage.

Lauren Devoll (Roz) shines especially in the play within a play. I would like to see her someday in a real version of Private Lives.

James Randle (Howard), her hapless fiancé, has excellent comic timing as the only non-thespian of the troupe.

Marshall Bradshaw (Paul) is a very physical actor, which works great especially when they lose a star and the choreography of the search takes him running repeatedly all over the stage.

Marsha Rehns (Ethel) is totally believable as a crotchety old woman and her character’s dislike of her son-in-law adds needed subtlety.

Ernie Molina (Richard) as a suave Hollywood lawyer shined; it is fun to watch someone who so clearly loves acting.

Heather Danskin (Eileen) had another very dynamic part and played it well.

The set by Director Mary Ayala-Bush summoned backstage of a theater well with a few posters and costumes and made room for all of the crazy entrances and exits without extraneous scene changes, lit by Jerry M Dale, Jr. The costumes were another star of the show by Ceci Albert. It’s not every play that you get to stretch from 17th century France to the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. The costumes were particularly fun for the fateful performance.

The cast in rehearsal. Photo courtesy of St. Mark's Players.

The cast in rehearsal. Photo courtesy of St. Mark’s Players.

Director Mary Ayala-Bush does a good job of staging an extremely complicated story – so much of the farce rested on slapstick sword fights and complicated chase scenes.  It could have benefited from a bit faster pace. The script is so fun, but much of that rests on timing and not melodrama and there were a few missed opportunities as everyone amps up – but that is only obvious because by the time of the play within a play, the audience was guffawing as everything synced. And I am sure the pace will pick up in future performances.

The cast: Heather Danskin, James Randle, Ernie Molina, Marshall Bradshaw, Marsha Rehns and Lauren Devoll.

The cast: Heather Danskin, James Randle, Ernie Molina, Marshall Bradshaw Marsha Rehns, and Lauren Devoll. John Henderson is sitting in the front row with Kirstin Apker.

It’s a bold choice of play. Moon Over Buffalo is as much about the theater as it is about any of the characters and a theater production about theater productions can lead to unexpected laughs. The hearts of the cast pull this off. At the end of the day it is a love letter to the stage, one its clear that everyone involved in the production would like to sign personally.

St. Mark’s Players’ Moon Over Buffalo makes for a humorous and entertaining evening. Need a ton of laughs? You’ll get in bundles at Moon Over Buffalo.

Running time: Two hours, with one 15-minute intermission.

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Moon Over Buffalo plays through October 24, 2015 at St. Mark’s Players performing at St. Marks Episcopal Church – 301 A Street SE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 546-9670 and leave a message, or purchase them online.

RATING: FOUR-AND-A-HALF-STARS8.gif

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