Anyone who loves a good laugh will appreciate “Moon Over Buffalo,” the latest production by Whidbey Playhouse in Oak Harbor, opening Friday, Feb. 5.
Written by Ken Ludwig, the play features fading 1950s stage stars George and Charlotte Hay, who are performing “Private Lives” and “Cyrano De Bergerac” in repertory theater in Buffalo, New York. But George’s wandering eye has the couple on the verge of splitting up.
However, there could still be a glimmer left in their stars – there is word famed film director Frank Capra is coming to town to see their matinee performance. If all goes well, they could land a role in Capra’s remake of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” The key words being “if all goes well,” of course.
As is certainly true of comedy and definitely true of this production, timing is everything.
“When you’re doing farce it’s all about the timing,” said director Bob Hendrix. “The actors have to move fast.”
“Once I learned the rhythm it became easier,” said Coqui Herken, who plays Rosalind, George and Charlotte’s only child, which proved a challenge.
“That is a different experience than I have in life,” Herken said. “I was having to feel it out and bring up this “only child” persona.”
What Rosalind hasn’t told her parents is that she is engaged to Howard, a stranger to the family, who is played by Chris Barrett.
“My last production was a drama, so this was a switch,” said Barrett. “But I feel like I got into it pretty well.”
Howard, a television meteorologist, is star struck by the thought of meeting Rosalind’s parents, who keep mistaking him for someone else. Barrett said it is a fun role to play.
“I really like how sincere, honest and genuinely excited Howard is,” Barrett said. “That struck me as endearing.”
Hendrix said he is pleased with how the cast has come together.
“We did auditions in November, then took breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Hendrix said. “But they actually listened and learned their lines quickly. So they got their characters and have been able to give them life. That’s rewarding.”
Dann Davies and Ingrid Schwalbe play George and Charlotte, respectively. This is actually the second time Davies has done the role, having performed it first in 1998 while in his 40s. He said playing George nearly 20 years later is the same, but different.
“I’m a lot different, but I think the way I attack the role is the same,” Davies said. “Learning the lines was easier – they came back to me. But the role is physically challenging and I’m throwing myself into it to supply enough energy to George.”
Davies said he always tries to find the good in the characters he plays. He said George is basically good, but there is a streak of bad in him, too.
“I always have fun developing a character,” he said. “And I think in this play the accident is a moment of clarity for George.”
Woven throughout the fast pace of this play is the dry wit of George’s hard-of-hearing mother-in-law, Ethel, played by Priscilla Wilbur and modeled after someone in her life.
“It’s my ex-mother-in-law,” she laughed. “She gets to tell it like it is. She’s beyond putting on airs.”
The material, though written in the 50s, stands the test of time.
“Carol Burnett came back to Broadway after a 30-year absence to do this play,” said Davies. “So if Carol Burnett thinks it’s worthy of doing, it’s worth seeing.”
“It’s a wonderful production,” agreed Herken. “You’ll laugh. You won’t be disappointed at all.”
“It’s really funny,” said Wilbur. “And in this day and age, everybody needs a good laugh.”
The play, part of the Whidbey Playhouse’s ongoing 50th Anniversary celebration, opens Friday, Feb. 5 and runs through Sunday, Feb. 21. Shows Thursday through Saturday are at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 and are available at the box office, 730 SE Midway Blvd. in Oak Harbor. Call 360-679-2237 or click here for information.