Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Moon over Buffalo

Adobe Theater
Review by Rob Spiegel

Also Dean's review of The Full Monty, Mark's review of Extremities and Wally's review of Around the World in (Less Than) Eighty Days

Carolyn Hogan and John Wylie
Photo by John Hogan
Here's a slapstick farce that's plenty clever along the way. Moon over Buffalo, by Ken Ludwig, tells the story of a semi-failing repertory theatre troupe that's traveling the country in the 1950s, just as television is about to put a severe crimp in the audience for live theater. The action all takes place in Buffalo, where the leaders of the troupe, George Hay (John Wylie) and his wife Charlotte (Carolyn Hogan), learn that their theatrical business is losing money and can't make payroll.

To complicate matters, George has just found out that the troupe member he's been having an affair with, Eileen (Erika Zepeda), is pregnant and Charlotte has found a note from Eileen revealing it all. Of course, that's not nearly enough in this a high-octane screwball comedy.

George gets a call from the office of Hollywood director Frank Capra saying that he needs to replace his movie's leading man (Ronald Colman) and leading lady (Greer Garson) due to an accident and now he's headed to Buffalo to see the troupe's show with the idea that George and Charlotte might fit the bill. This is great news to Charlotte, even though she's in the process of leaving George. She has always wanted to be a Hollywood star and is right at the age where this could be her last shot. George is not as impressed, since he prefers live theatre, but this isn't a time to get picky with his furious wife.

Add to all this the news that their daughter Rosalind (Abriana LaValley)—who used to be part of the troupe but is now in advertising—is in town to introduce her fiancé Howard (Daniel Anaya). To complicate matters for Rosalind, her former boyfriend Paul (Edward Hein), who still loves her, is on the scene, since he's part of the troupe. The script is so well written, all of these complications play out clearly.

George's response to having his affair revealed is pure self-pity. He gets drunk. This makes the whole notion of impressing the soon-to-arrive Frank Capra nearly impossible. Into all this, add some mistaken identity: Howard is at one point mistaken for Frank Capra and at another point for Eileen's brother, who is in a rage over her affair and pregnancy and wants to shoot George.

To up the ante even more, Richard (Timothy J. Kupjack) has arrived to steal Charlotte from her philandering husband, and Charlotte's mom and stagehand Ethel (Alaina Warren Zachary) is nearly deaf and thus misunderstands the craziness around her, which just makes it all crazier.

Ludwig had a string of comedic hits on Broadway, including the Tony-winning Lend Me a Tenor and Leading Ladies. A couple years ago, the Adobe Theater produced his comedy, The Game's Afoot. Written in 1995, Moon over Buffalo is one of Ludwig's earlier plays and, even though it was written in the 1990s, it's a throwback to farce comedies from earlier eras.

Director Lewis Hauser, who recently relocated to Albuquerque after decades of impressive theatre work in Los Angeles, keeps the action non-stop and hilarious at nearly all points. His most powerful tool in the production is timing, exquisite timing. There are four doors on stage. During one sequence most of the eight actors are running in and out of the doors, coming on and going off stage frantically. The timing through this is critical. Hauser's direction and the actors' quick dexterity is a thing of pure beauty. I wish them luck getting through this sequence in their many coming performances. During opening night, it was blissfully executed.

The whole production is terrific. The ensemble performances are strong throughout. Some of the actors, such as Hogan and Wylie, are pros who always deliver at a high level. Some of the others I was seeing for the first time, and they came through great. I've always loved Kupjack's work, but here he doesn't have as meaty a role as usual, but he's fine. The surprise for me was Daniel Anaya, playing Howard. This is his second production at the Adobe. He's a natural comic presence, and absolutely delightful to watch.

Kudos to the production team, which includes Andrew Sutton as stage manager, Lexie Williamson as assistant stage manager, Pete Parkin as fencing choreographer, Linda Wilson doing set design, Carson Lewis doing lighting, and Rhonda Backnoff providing the costumes. Shannon Flynn did the sound.

This is a funny, funny, funny production.

Moon over Buffalo, through June 17, 2018, at the Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth St. NW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm. Additional shows have been added for Thursday, June 7, at 7:30 pm and Saturday, June 16, at 2 pm. General admission is $20. Admission for seniors, students, and ATG members is $17. For reservations, call 505-898-9222. For more information see the Adobe Theater website at