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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY STAGEDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY“Moon Over Buffalo,” through Feb. 24, The Pennsylvania Playhouse, Bethlehem. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY STAGEDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY“Moon Over Buffalo,” through Feb. 24, The Pennsylvania Playhouse, Bethlehem.

Theater Review: Farce shines in ‘Moon’ at Pa. Playhouse

Friday, February 22, 2019 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

Lots of farce, a little slapstick and an ample serving of comic mayhem are back on the stage at The Pennsylvania Playhouse, Bethlehem, in “Moon Over Buffalo,” through Feb. 24.

The latest offering is one of two dozen award-winning plays and musicals written by Ken Ludwig, who also penned “The Fox on the Fairway” and “Crazy for You,” both of which were produced by the Playhouse last season.

Director Carrie Belenois brings with her 20 years of experience managing, directing and choreographing various stage endeavors, including a stint as assistant company manager for the touring company of “Annie.” That obviously gave her valuable insights into the characterizations in “Moon Over Buffalo,” which is all about a struggling troupe of traveling actors performing at the Erlanger Theatre in Buffalo in 1953.

Belenois has assembled a well-balanced ensemble of eight actors, and has managed well the frantic timing of door slamming, harried exits and entrances, and overall chaotic confusion. During the Feb. 8 opening night performance seen for this review, the dynamic duo of George and Charlotte Hay, played by Jerry Brucker and Beth Sucro, dominated the stage.

Brucker masters the physical challenges of his role that includes sword-fighting and wrestling, while also capturing the nuances of an actor about to lose his wife because of his philandering.

Sucro was wonderfully bitchy as Charlotte, the overly-dramatic ingénue who dreams of becoming a film star, and is absurdly jealous of Greer Garson. Sucro also found the gentler side of her character, using her practiced demeanor and facial expressions to best advantage to reflect Charlotte’s many moods.

Trish Kane Steele gives an especially polished performance as Ethel the grandmother. Others in the fine cast are Juliana Wardle, Sebastian Paff, Jessica Mulligan, Tom Wright and Ted Williams.

The “Moon Over Buffalo” set looked suspiciously like the one for the Playhouse’s production of “The Fox on the Fairway,” only the backstage green room with its five doors really was painted green.

On the “Moon” set, backstage is down, and onstage is up. When actors were supposed to be performing before an audience they are on a narrow platform above the green room. This works fairly effectively.

In “Moon Over Buffalo,” there’s a lot to laugh at, from mistaken identities to spiked coffee to pratfalls. Characters switch partners, then switch back again. There is chaos and confusion, and then all becomes clear.

As the director says in her program notes, “Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.”

Tickets: Pennsylvania Playhouse Box Office, 390 Illick’s Mill Road, Bethlehem; paplayhouse.org; 610-865-1192