Front to Back_ Arusi Santi, Arthur Hanket _ Josh Braaten - photo by Aaron Rumley
By Jack Lyons Theatre and Film Critic. Member of American Theatre Critics Association

If ever an American city received an undeserved bum rap just for being known as the “snow capital’ of America its Buffalo, New York.  A hundred years ago It was an important, vibrant, port city, and a stop for every theatrical touring company in the country. It’s still a lovely city that attracts thousands of visitors every year to see the near-by famous Waterfalls at Niagara, one of nature’s great wonders.

It also became the location city where one of America’s most prolific and prodigious playwrights, the reigning King of comedy/farces Ken Ludwig, set his 1995 play “Moon Over Buffalo”, now on stage at North Coast Repertory Theatre (NCRT), in Solana Beach.

The madcap comedy play, solidly directed by Matthew Wiener follows in the tradition of Ludwig’s 1987 Tony Award-winning comedy-farce “Lend Me a Tenor”.  Once again a Ludwig play is in creative and capable hands at NCRT.

Set in 1953 in Buffalo, NY the play centers on George and Charlotte Hay (Arthur Hanket and Katrina Ferguson, respectively) two fading stage actors who run a theatrical touring company.  They’re currently performing two plays in repertory: “Cyrano de Bergerac and “Private Lives”.  Comedy/farce is best performed in lots of ‘over-the-top’ stage moments.  The more slap-stick and slamming door performances, the better.  Director Weiner provides a production chock full of pratfalls, backstage shenanigans, and mistaken identities to please even the fussiest of connoisseurs of the genre.

Of course, the Hay daughter Roz (Jaque Wilkie) left the company to lead a “normal life” sometime ago, but returns to see her parents to announce the news of her engagement to her new fiancé TV Weatherman Howard (Arusi Santi).  Roz’s ex-boyfriend Paul (Josh Braaten), is the stage manager of the Hay’s company of actors; still pines for Roz.  Charlotte’s mother, hard of hearing Ethel, is hilariously played by Roxane Carrasco, who loves needling her son-in-law George.  Richard a successful lawyer who continues to pursue Charlotte as her favorite stage door Johnny, is played by Mathew Salazar-Thompson. Brittney Bertier plays Eileen, a young actor who sets in motion more comedy moments than you could imagine.

There is one referred to character (never seen), who acts as sort of Hitchcock’s famous “MaGuffin” plot piece. Hollywood film director Frank Capra informs the Hay’s that he wants to see their performance of “Private Lives” at which time he is expected to make an offer to hire the Hay’s for a movie project.  This news sends the company into orbit and into non-stop hilarity. However, No spoiler alerts from me.  Just make sure you attend a performance to enjoy for yourself.

This professional ensemble cast of farceurs is outstanding.  But as good as they are, and they’re very good, the evening belongs to Arthur Hanket as George and to Katrina Ferguson as Charlotte.  These two wonderful performers were born to play the unhinged Hay’s. Their comedy timing and pacing is terrific thanks to the seamless direction of Matthew Wiener.

As for the technical credits: Resident Scenic Designer Marty Burnett and Lighting Designer Matt Novotny, never fail to provide creative set and lightings designs for NCRT.  Elisa Benzoni’s costumes enhance the visual appeal, and 2019 San Diego Critics Circle Craig Noel Awards nominated sound designer Melanie Chen Cole provides the sound.  Hair & Wig Design is by Peter Herman.  Fight Choreographer Benjamin Cole completes the creative team.

The impressive production “Moon Over Buffalo”, performs at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach,and runs through February 10, 2019