Preview by Lissa Gapultos of “Moon over Buffalo”: Northern Kentucky University
Back in January, Northern Kentucky University first announced the establishment of its School of the Arts, the combining of three departments: theatre and dance, visual arts and music. This new model brings new collaborations among the departments which previously did not exist, creating a cohesive project across multiple programs. Ken Ludwig’s 1995 play Moon Over Buffalo is the first production under NKU’s School for the Arts banner. Department of Theatre & Dance adjunct instructor, Charlie Roetting, directs. Roetting has already witnessed first-hand the advantages, such as more opportunity to prepare with designers further in advance, and the sharing of production personnel and resources to increase efficiency in mounting this play.
Moon Over Buffalo is a two-act farce set in 1953, taking place mainly in the green room of a theatre in Buffalo. Married couple and former Broadway stars George and Charlotte Hay have lost their shine. With their heyday long gone, they have been downgraded to performing Private Lives and Cyrano De Bergerac in rep. Alleged infidelity, a surprise visit, and the possibility of being cast in a feature film all figure into the typical backstage commotion that comes with putting on not one, but two shows in the same venue.
Roetting is not shy about drawing much inspiration from the golden age of television and the classic sit-coms of legendary status that continue to entertain and delight to this day. Younger audiences likely find that antiquated black & white shows of yesteryears have very little relevance to their own experiences, yet Roetting believes the colorful personalities are what help to maintain certain elements that are universal and genuine. Using his own background in theatre and improv, Roetting encourages the student cast of 12 to explore the script, full of banter and physical shenanigans while finding the heart and soul of their respective characters. 1950s archetypes have been incorporated into the production, and will surely add charm amid the onstage dynamics. Having watched the fight calls at the beginning of their rehearsal, I found the young actors truly relishing the absurdity of the script.
There is some curiosity concerning the play’s title Moon Over Buffalo— what was this about? Moon as a verb has several different meanings according to a variety of sources: 1) baring of the buttocks, 2) to act or wander listlessly, 3) remember nostalgically, and 4) act in a dreamily infatuated manner. While any of these meanings may be relevant to the script in some small way, it seems that playwright Ken Ludwig’s inspiration for the title came from the movie Moon Over Miami, a 1941 romantic comedy. Switching out the enchanting Miami for the mundane location of the play created a most appropriate title.
While Buffalo is not readily associated with romance or excitement, NKU’s School of the Arts inaugural production of Moon Over Buffalo presents a nostalgic trip punctuated with gleeful confusion, hilarious wordplay and comedic action that speaks to audiences from any era.
Moon Over Buffalo is playing at Northern Kentucky University September 24th–Oct 4th. Tickets can be obtained through the box office, http://artscience.nku.edu/departments/theatre/boxoffice.html.