Theater About Theater
Between Boulevard Theatre's staging of The Constant Wife as a theater rehearsal and Off the Wall's production of Gypsy, at least two local stages seem to be looking at themselves. Marquette adds to the theater-about-theater motif this month with its production of Ken Ludwig's comedy The Moon Over Buffalo. Running through Oct. 5, the production stars Kevin Hogan and Jennifer Shine as George and Charlotte Hay-a pair of married actors struggling with their own repertory theater company in Buffalo, N.Y. in 1953.
George and Charlotte enjoy their lives onstage, but lament the fact that they were never able to make it big in Hollywood. Their fortunes change when they get word that famed film director Frank Capra is coming to see them perform with the prospect of casting them in an upcoming film. Ludwig's mid-'90s take on early '50s backstage comedy is light, breezy fun with the unmistakable feel of a classic farce. The comedy bolts from one plot point to the next with a burst of comic energy that would be difficult to maintain for any student actor, but the Marquette cast manages to hold everything together with a degree of finesse. The pacing and overall mood of the piece remains fun from beginning to end.
As in any university production, it's interesting to see the texture of unevenness in the performance. George and Charlotte seem to be written to be overly dramatic in every aspect of their lives, expressing even the most casual things in epic tones. Hogan and Shine may not capture this perfectly, but their strengths in other areas keep their performances from falling flat. Hogan's powerful, robust build amplifies his talent for physical comedy. The precision of Shine's comic delivery maintains a satisfying warmth. The rest of the cast offers a well-balanced performance throughout.