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December 6, 2011 > Theatre Review: Moon Over Buffalo is a tasty treat

Theatre Review: Moon Over Buffalo is a tasty treat

Submitted By Jay Coleman

If you're tired of turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving, head over to Irvington High School (IHS) for a hearty slice of ham in the Irvington Conservatory Theatre's (ICT) production of "Moon Over Buffalo," which runs through December 10.

Set in the 1950s, Ken Ludwig's 1995 comedy play lured comedienne Carol Burnett back to Broadway after a 30-year absence and earned her a Tony Award nomination as Best Actress.

The play opens with a traveling troupe of actors on the road in Buffalo, NY ("like Scranton, without the charm") where they're performing "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Private Lives" in a repertory theatre.

Life is full of drama for George and Charlotte Hay: Their marriage is shaky at best; daughter Rosalind, who left acting for advertising, has a new boyfriend, Howard, a TV weatherman; Ethel, Charlotte's mother, is hard of hearing, which provides many hilarious exchanges; Paul, the company manager, is still in love with Rosalind; Richard, the slick lawyer, has romantic designs on Charlotte; and Eileen, a young actress, is pregnant by George.

Eileen confronts George ("We were such fools, and now we're having a little fool.") then disappears before that afternoon's performance. Life begins to unravel when George receives a call from movie director Frank Capra, who's considering George and Charlotte as replacements for Ronald Colman and Greer Garson in his ready-to-shoot film "The Twilight of the Scarlet Pimpernel." George tells Charlotte the good news, but she doesn't believe him because she's just learned of Eileen's pregnancy. Charlotte threatens to leave town with lawyer Richard, so George heads to the bar to drown his sorrows.

That sets up a wacky scene where Rosalind, filling in for Eileen in a matinee performance of "Private Lives" has to adlib her way out of trouble when George returns to the theatre and comes onstage, drunk and performing Cyrano in full costume - during the very performance that Capra is attending to see George and Charlotte in action.

"Moon Over Buffalo" is a wonderfully funny show and perfect choice for new Irvington Conservatory Theatre director Scott DiLorenzo, who replaced retired, long-time legend Linda Jackson-Whitmore this year at IHS. Because of the show's small cast and the abundance of talent at the magnet performing-arts school, DiLorenzo double cast the play, offering more students the opportunity to shine in this engaging farce.

And shine they do. Every actor onstage stole at least one scene on the night of this review. DiLorenzo reports that both casts are equally strong - their competitive juices challenging their counterparts in the opposite cast.

Brian Barrientez II is a real talent in the role of George, which requires considerable physical comedy, a dose of slapstick, fluid facial expressions and the angst of someone stuck in the Cyrano character, seemingly for life. He's a walking ham, according to mother-in-law Ethel and an actor you have to watch when he's onstage.

Puukani Tiwanak, as Charlotte, also excels as the eternal drama queen who longs to make her mark in film. She's a perfect match for George, and has very clever scenes of mistaken identity with Howard, Rosalind's boyfriend.

Rosalind (Zarin Khan) and Howard's (Dylan Maisler) characters aren't as over-the-top as George and Charlotte, but the two young performers work well together. In their funniest scene, Howard rationalizes that his TV weatherman job is "sort of acting," until Rosalind corrects, "My parents do Chekov, you do precipitation."

Kristina Haran sparkles as the somewhat befuddled Ethel, whose deafness is selective and always ripe for laughter ("This place is like living in an asylum on the guard's day off.").

Ludwig's script provides ample opportunities for Kevin Leong, as Paul, and Patrick Praxel, as Richard, to show their skills in the fast-paced action. And Frances Ramsel, as Eileen, goes from initial anguish early in the show to exhilaration in a surprise happy ending.

Special credit goes to stagecraft instructor Beth Zeigler from Ohlone College, the show's sponsor, and to master carpenter Neil Burkhart and his crew for constructing an incredibly solid and durable set. The play's humor often "hinges" on repeated slamming of five doors, and not once did the walls quiver. The cast also deserves kudos for split-second timing, as one door slams shut, another opens as actors move onstage.

Costumes by designer Elizabeth Whitaker were perfectly matched to the '50s, and sound effects and lighting cues under technical designer Ryan Willer were flawless.

Don't dismiss "Moon Over Buffalo" as a turkey because you may not have heard of it; it's a feast of fun - and just the right amount of ham.

Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 for children and seniors, $10 for high school students with ASB sticker, and half-priced for December 8. They may be purchased online at www.irvingtonconservatorytheatre.org or by calling (510) 656-5711, ext. 46423.

Moon Over Buffalo
Thursday, Dec 8 - Saturday, Dec 10
7:30 p.m.
Irvington High School
41800 Blacow Rd., Fremont
(510) 656-5711, ext. 46423
www.irvingtonconservatorytheatre.org
Tickets: $10 - $15

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