Brown County Playhouse in Nashville is currently offering Ken Ludwig’s backstage farce, Moon Over Buffalo, with a very accomplished cast in a neatly orchestrated production directed by Dale McFadden. Playwright Ken Ludwig’s name may be familiar to Brown County Playhouse fans who enjoyed the very successful staging of his play Lend Me a Tenor during the 1995 season.
Moon Over Buffalo gives us a family theater company in the 1950s playing to smaller and smaller crowds as people turn to television for entertainment. The company’s and the family’s problems all work together for maximum irritation for them and maximum amusement for the audience.
A theater director once told me that besides the selection of a good play, the best thing that a director could do was have good luck in casting. He put good casting at seventy to eighty percent of a show’s success. Brown County production seems to bear this out. Even in this lightweight comedy, each actor showed real depth, skill and control with their part. Rob Johansen played the wildly egotistical and yet attractive actor-manager, George Hay, with just the right hammy panache as Cyrano and equal ham though less panache elsewhere. Martha Jacobs, was totally in command of her part as his long suffering and equally theatrical wife, Charlotte Hay.
Mary Sylvester plays the family’s grandmother and the theater company’s costume mistress in Moon Over Buffalo. She was always on the comic mark whether her character had her hearing aid on or off. Kelly Ann Ford was the apparently sensible daughter of this wildly disfunctional family. She seemed totally ready for an off stage career as the wife of a tv weatherman until the theater lured her back. Peter Gerharz was her hapless fiancee. Gerharz was charming as the star struck young man. Melissa Joy Nedell did solid service as the company’s screaming ingenue.
At the center of the company, the anchor is Erik Anderson. Anderson’s character is as smitten with the theater as anyone in the play. He’s more aware of everything that’s going on but, he can’t do anything about most of it. Finally, there’s Wolf Sherrill as the company lawyer. Sherrill didn’t miss a beat as the successful business man who is taken by the theater and its people, but stays safe outside.
Moon Over Buffalo is a little piece of delightfully put together theatrical chaos that’s a lot of fun to watch. It plays Wednesdays through Sundays in July.