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15.8.10

Moon Over Buffalo

by Ken Ludwig

Everybody loves a good farce. This reminded me a lot of Noises Off with the crazy backstage antics that occur when producing shows (especially in rep!). Carol Burnett played the leading lady in the original production and I can only imagine how wonderful she must have been. The story centers on a group of theatre artists who are performing Cyrano and Private Lives in rep in Buffalo, NY. The two stars are older actors who never quite made it and are somewhat bitter about it. They get word that a famous movie director is coming to see their matinee and through a series of miscommunications and unfortunate events all hell breaks loose! This play is sure to be a crowd pleaser, much like Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor.

George, the male lead got his young co-star pregnant - a fact that his wife, Charlotte is unaware of. Paul, the renaissance man of the group, tries to formulate a plan to keep George out of trouble:
Alright, all right. Let me think... Okay. Now listen. ... Eileen could have the baby... in the country. With a relative, like an aunt or something. And we won't tell Charlotte, ever! And... you could take trips every few months and ... and visit them in the country, and have picnics! And then, when the baby is like... ten years old, you could cast her as the Page in Much Ado About Nothing, and you could put on shows together!
Before this BRILLIANT plan can be put into effect, Charlotte finds out about the baby and storms out of the theatre, driving George to drink. Their daughter, Rosalind justifies his actions:
He only drinks when he's under great stress. The night I went out on my first date, he drank an entire bottle of vermouth. Then he followed me around disguised as an Irishman. It was like being stalked by Eugene O'Neill.
The cast rallies together and pull off the most ridiculous matinee perform of Private Lives ever to be seen on the stage. George is drunk and wearing his Cyrano costume and eventually falls into the pit. The rest of the cast are covering for him left and right - the show falls to pieces but the audience finds it hilarious! Post-show, the actors are relieved to find that the movie director got held up at the airport and will be seeing the evening show, giving George time to sober up. Charlotte threatens to leave for good and give up the theatre. George tells her:
You're an actress, Charlotte. It's in your veins. If you were caught in the spotlight of a runaway train, you'd break into a time step. There are people out there in the darkness that are living through you. Dreaming of what they can be through your voice.
I can't decide if it's romantic or sad that we go to the theatre or the movies to escape into another life. Regardless, each show is a journey - both for the actors and for the audience, and Moon Over Buffalo is the kind of play that allows you a glimpse of a life behind the curtain.. and for all its extremity, stranger things have happened backstage!

Thursday Play-a-day: Private Lives by Noel Coward

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