Review: ‘Moon Over Buffalo’ at the Laurel Mill Playhouse

Moon Over Buffalo, written by Ken Ludwig, opened at the Laurel Mill Playhouse, directed by Larry Simmons and produced by Maureen Rogers. Moon Over Buffalo is a farce in the Shakespearean tradition. There are mistaken identities, funny drunks, “magic” potions, romance, and more. Although it doesn’t always quite measure up to the Bard, there are plenty of laughs to satisfy the audience.

Chris Carothers and Maribeth Vogel in Moon Over Buffalo. Photo Courtesy of the Laurel Mill Playhouse.

Without revealing too much, the plot revolves around two aging actors, George and Charlotte Hay, played respectively by Christopher Carothers and Maribeth Vogel, who are trying to rekindle their career. The play is set in 1953 in a second class theater in Buffalo, New York. The couple is performing in repertoire Private Lives and Cyrano. Hope is lit when they get word that famed director, Frank Capra, may be coming to see them perform before casting them in his new movie.

The Hay’s daughter, Rosalind (Dana Fleischer), has given up acting for a normal life. Recently split from Paul (Rew Garner), another actor, she brings her new fiancé, Howard (Nik Henle), to meet the family, which also includes her caustic and hearing impaired maternal grandmother, Ethel (Jean Berard).

The play succeeds due to Simmons attention to detail. The timing and pace keeps this moving even when a joke may not get an expected laugh or groan. Even the set, designed by Simmons, shows great functionality and creativity on this limited stage.

The two leads, Carothers and Vogel, have great chemistry whether they are fighting or making up. Carothers perfectly plays the drunken George and the hammy actor playing Cyrano. Vogel plays the role that was literally written for the icon, Carol Burnett. Vogel catches all the nuances and captures all the subtle looks which are sometimes funnier than the more obvious comedy.

Nick Henle and Dana Fleischer in Moon Over Buffalo. Photo Courtesy of the Laurel Mill Playhouse.

Fleischer, as the daughter, has tremendous energy and gets her share of laughs as well. Her underlying passion for Paul is exposed as they rehearse Private Lives, and it comes rollicking to the surface. Both Fleischer and Garner are standouts in their roles.

Henle plays the small-town weatherman and sometimes bewildered Howard perfectly, catching his fish out of water quality with this odd family. Berard’s Ethel riotously creates the epitome of the hated mother-in-law with her sharp tongue while remaining lovable due to her warmth towards her granddaughter and refusal to deal with her hearing problem.

In two other supporting roles Laurie Simonds plays Eileen, the other woman in George’s life, and Jack P. Wassell portrays Richard Maynard, the other man in Charlotte’s. They both hit their marks expertly as well, and add to the fun.

The costume design by Marge McGugan also is expertly done with the same attention to detail as the rest of the production. The costumes are crucial to the comedy in this play. McGugan gets it right whether it is costumes from Cyrano, the 1930’s Private Lives, or the early 50’s when the action takes place.

Anyone who understands how community theater works will realize the group lost at least two nights of the all-important technical rehearsals due to the unusual Spring weather. However, under the experienced guidance of Lori Bruun, the Stage Manager, things usually ran smoothly with only a couple of small hiccups. Losing rehearsals so close to performance can be a very often hard obstacle to overcome. Congratulations to the cast and crew for helping things go smoothly.

If you enjoy a good farce, you will enjoy Moon Over Buffalo. So, stampede on down to Laurel Mill Playhouse and catch this production!

Running Time: One Hour and 50 minutes, with an Intermission.

Moon Over Buffalo plays through Sunday, April 15, 2018, at Laurel Mill Playhouse— 508 Main Street, in Laurel, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 617-9906, or purchase them online