By Randi Somers
Called a “love note to theater” by one critic, Moon over Buffalo takes the audience backstage to experience the personal interaction of actors. Pier One Theatre will present this play for three weekends, beginning Friday.
The play is set in 1953, the end of the era of touring classical repertory theater. Actors George (Ken Lanfield) and Charlotte (Margaret Quarton) carry on despite small audiences and their inappropriate roles as young lovers in two classic plays. Their company and crew are in Buffalo, (called New York’s least favorite city), to present Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac and Noel Coward’s Private Lives. Cyrano is a late-1800s romantic sword fighting play with a huge cast (George and Charlotte have reduced the cast to five, thereby losing most of the point of the play). Private Lives is a British drawing-room comedy from the 1930s, fortunately (for the small touring company) having very few roles.
Taking their shows on the road was the main means of livelihood of Broadway actors from the late 1700s into the World War II years. Theatrical touring evolved to adapt to local conditions and stay in each town as long as they had an audience and helped establish theater in places which might never have known live theater otherwise. The Great Depression closed touring to all but a few highly publicized successes. The tours also needed high-profile Broadway or Hollywood stars in order to succeed. Hollywood was changing the face of entertainment in America. After World War II, there was a brief demand for theatrical entertainment that died out with the end of war-time inflation. Broadway’s only salvation seemed to be the popularity of musical comedies and dramas.
A broad knowledge of plays and theatre in general helps the audience grasp many references and inside jokes, Pier One Artistic Director Lance Petersen wrote.
The protagonists see their performance as a shot at starring roles in The Scarlet Pimpernel epic because director Frank Capra himself is en route to Buffalo to catch their matinee performance.
With Joe Lawton directing, the farce is sure to leave the audience smiling if not laughing out loud and would be actors will especially identify with the stage players aspirations to secure movie roles.
Actually three plays intertwined, the slapstick action uses doors opening and closing to create near misses of people trying to avoid each other, people hiding in closets, half-naked actors, mistaken identities and mass confusion.
Director Lawton studied and acted under Frank Brink at Alaska Methodist University in the mid-60s. He met Petersen there, and they stayed in touch. Lawton subsequent worked primarily at Valley Performing Arts in Palmer. He said he recently ran into his old friend Petersen and they discussed the possibility of Lawton directing a play here.
During rehearsals which have been underway since the end of June, Lawton lived on his fishing boat, a 26-foot double ender, in the Homer Harbor, occasionally driving home to Palmer.
The cast is comprised of Ken Lanfield playing George Hay, a traveling actor; Margaret Quarton as Charlotte, George’s wife and actress in his company; Elizabeth Caldwell as Rosilind Roz, their daughter who left the stage to lead a “normal” life; Alan Olson playing a TV weatherman, Howard, who is Rosalind’s fiance; Reuben Sherwood as Paul ,the rear stage manager for George’s company and Rosalind’s ex-fiance; Jules Joy as Ethel, Charlotte’s nearly deaf mother; Michael McKinney playing Richard, a lovesick lawyer who is courting Charlotte and Taneeka Hansen as Eileen, an acress in George’s company who earlier was his one night stand. All but Quarton are veteran actors. She said this is her second summer of acting.
The play will be performed Aug. 26, 27, 28, Sept. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and Sept. 8, 9, 10.
All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets are available at Etude Studio and the Bookstore. They are $12 with discounts available.
Volunteering at the snack counter or as an usher gets one in free. Call 235-7333 for reservations.
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