Moon Over Buffalo flaunts student talent
Mistaken identities, aging actors desperate to redeem themselves, love gone awry, and a whole lot of drunken antics made for quite the crazy ride in Scotch’n’Soda’s latest production, Moon Over Buffalo. Presented Friday and Saturday in McConomy Auditorium and co-directed by sophomore chemical engineering major Evan Starkweather and sophomore international relations and politics major Razghiem Golden, the show was a whirlwind that featured few characters, but lots of laughs.
The plot was a labyrinth of catastrophes: an extramarital affair (or two or three), a life-or-death matinée, and George S. Patton bound and gagged in the closet. Although a plot this jam-packed with calamities has the potential to be overwhelming and ridiculous (and not in a good way), Starkweather and Golden balanced the crazy with plenty of moments of sanity and sweetness, making the outrageous story easier to swallow.
The set was cleverly planned with five doors, allowing for the action to flow across the stage — albeit somewhat clumsily in parts — and the costumes were vibrant and well done.
Junior creative writing major Chelsea Bartel was a true force of nature as the wildly dramatic diva Charlotte Hay, wife of sophomore vocal performance major Ethan Crystal’s George and mother of first-year dramaturgy major Holly Dennis’ Roz. The chemistry between Bartel and Crystal was sincere and genuine, becoming a true driving force for the story and the play. Their banter and eventual epiphanies were only made more hilarious and heartwarming by the way the actors interacted with each other, physically and otherwise. Their back-and-forth was as lively and well timed as a fast-paced tennis match — true comedic gold.
Crystal’s timing was a large part of the hilarity of the play; his drunken antics were positively uproarious. From his facial expressions to the fluidity of his vocals as an actor playing an actor, he crafted a personality that was lovable and raucous. Equally humorous as a sober man and as a drunk, Crystal was a true stage presence.
The extramarital interests of Mr. and Mrs. Hay, senior decision sciences major Kevin Handerhan as Richard and senior psychology and biology double major Diane Koeller as Eileen, both shone in their smaller roles as well. Handerhan, playing the Hays’ lawyer and representative, was the very essence of charming and suave from the second he stepped through one of the many doors. In a wonderfully clever character twist, he was able to go from the definition of classy to childish and wounded, a transition that he accomplished with grace and ease.
Koeller’s Eileen was sweet and ironically innocent, considering she was carrying George’s baby. Her wide-eyed and slightly ditzy characterization would have made the affair hard to buy in to in any other show — but in this production, where the absurd was common, the irony only made her character more believable.
First-year vocal performance major Shannyn Rinker stole the show as Ethel, the elderly grandma with a hearing problem and a spunky streak. Cute as a button and convincing as a senior citizen (a challenging task), Rinker played the part well. Her spirited rivalry with George was a favorite aspect of the family dynamic, drawing consistently exuberant laughter from the crowd at every major battle. Her signature “Ohhh!” that punctuated every plot twist quickly became an indication that things were about to get crazy, and her missing hearing aid caused more than a few problems for the entire cast of kooks.
Equally as endearing was senior ethics, history, and public policy major Andrew Minton, who played Roz’s soon-to-be left-in-the-dust fiancé, Howard. Minton’s Howard was adorably sweet and spineless, the kind of all-around good guy who never gets the girl. Though the part was one of the smaller ones in the show, Minton reveled in it, and as a result he charmed his way into the hearts of the audience members.
Roz’s ex-fiancé was played by Derek Lessard, a junior double major in engineering and public policy and mechanical engineering. Lessard’s character, Paul, was arguably the most serious of the characters, which had the potential to make his performance fall flat. But instead of coming off as boring and strict in comparison to the insanity around him, Lessard managed to create a character that was controlled, smooth, and convincing — adding that extra something that made the show that much more reminiscent of real life.
Roz herself was another more serious character, providing a contrast to the rest of her family. This contrast was appropriate in that Roz desired nothing more than to get away from the craziness that was live theater. She was a breath of fresh air throughout the crazy story, and yet she managed to add some drama of her own at the same time.
Overall, the entire play was enjoyable and well done. There’s just something about live theater that a generation raised on movies and YouTube videos doesn’t get to appreciate enough. Everyone should seize the opportunity to experience live theater as often as possible, especially when it’s theater of this quality.