Encore Michigan

Struggling actors are charming and funny in Snug’s ‘Moon over Buffalo’

Review October 23, 2017 David Kiley

MARINE CITY, Mich.–Live theatre was a main form of entertainment in just about every culture around the globe for millennia, until it was essentially eclipsed by motion pictures, and later television, in the early 20th century. Traditional theatre troupes felt the pinch: some actors successfully made the transition to film, some did not, and some went back and forth between mediums, a situation which still exists today.

Moon Over Buffalo, a play by Ken Ludwig and directed by Brittany Smith at The Snug Theatre in Marine City, is a (very) comical look at one day in the life of such struggling actors: George and Charlotte Hay (portrayed by husband and wife Tony Amato and Terri Turpin-Amato). The Hays are well known and well-respected for their long careers on stage, and still manage a touring repertory troupe, but have had only lukewarm stints in small films; the rivalry between the Hays and their major film star counterparts is clear.

George and Charlotte’s adult daughter Rosalind (Colleen Miner) was raised in the theatre, but has left the troupe for a more “normal” life. She returns for a visit to announce her engagement to, of all people, a television personality [gasp]. She encounters two troupe members: her grandmother Ethel (Nancy Arnfield), who definitely needs but does not always use a hearing aid (and can always be counted on for a snide comment), and her old flame Paul (Aaron Dennis Smith). The recipe for mix-ups is obvious.

Rosalind’s fiancé Howard (Matt Siadak) arrives to meet the Hays while an awkward domestic situation is brewing involving George, Charlotte, and troupe member Eileen (Brittany Smith), with whom George has been accused of infidelity. The Hays’ long-time friend Richard (Randy Skotarczyk) lays the final straw encouraging Charlotte to leave, just hours before superstar movie director Frank Capra is scheduled to see their matinee performance—and potentially cast George and Charlotte in a major motion picture. Here’s the quick version of what happens next: Charlotte never really leaves, but George disappears; Howard knows of the famous Hays, but no one knows Howard except Rosalind; everyone thinks they know Frank Capra; no one knows Eileen’s brother except Eileen; Rosalind must stand in for Eileen, but none of the troupe knows for certain which play they are supposed to be performing; Paul is forced to do various forms of damage control; and Ethel, unfortunately, is in charge if the coffee. Cue the mayhem. As Ethel remarks under her breath, “It’s like living in the asylum on the guards’ day off.”

The Amatos bring a rich energy to the stage together. They are believable as a couple with both passion and disdain for each other. George asks Charlotte “Am I getting old?” to which she replies “No, you are just falling apart.” George later remarks about Charlotte’s “dainty voice, nagging at me like an open cold sore.” Tony Amato (2017 Wilde Award nominee for Best Actor) delights the Snug audience again with his comic portrayal of George Hay. He elicits laughter in every scene, but his portrayal of George in an advanced state of inebriation throughout most of Act II is beyond funny. He makes bumping into doors look both spontaneous and painful. Terri Turpin-Amato is great as an actress playing an actress, complete with over-the-top melodrama and wonderfully reactive facial expressions.

Their comedy is heightened by Aaron Smith and Colleen Miner as Paul and Rosalind, who are forced to try and salvage the crucial matinee performance threatened by disaster from all sides. Paul’s attempt to get a drunken George into his costume and Rosalind’s lengthy “ad lib” while waiting for drunken George to make his appearance on stage are among the comic highlights of the show. Matt Siadak brings just enough balance of intelligence and naiveté to the role of Howard, who appears at all the wrong moments and becomes increasingly aware that he is unprepared to become part of the eccentric, dramatic Hay family and their troupe of actors.

The Snug does not usually disappoint on period costumes, and Moon Over Buffalo is no exception. Kathy Vertin’s choice of dresses and accessories reminds the audience instantly of the 1950s setting. Even the hairstyles are perfectly dated.

All things considered, there is nothing to dislike about Moon Over Buffalo. The script is clever and quick moving, and the performance, highlighted by the Amatos, will leave you laughing.

Moon Over Buffalo is playing at the The Snug Theatre in Marine City through November 11, 2017.

Click here for show days, times and ticket details.

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