Review: ‘Moon Over Buffalo’ shines at The Phoenix Theatre

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Moon Over Buffalo

The Phoenix Theatre
9673 Firdale Ave.

Plays through Sunday, Oct. 30

“Screamingly funny!” doesn’t even begin to describe the out-of-control, uproarious, side-splitting laughter that filled The Phoenix Theatre on opening night of its 9th season as the lights went up on Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo.

With the return of Eric Lewis to the director’s chair, and a two-month advance-rehearsal schedule, this troupe of talent rewarded its very loyal following with a fantastically funny performance Friday night in Edmonds’ Firdale Village.

Banking on the fact that any enterprise that builds loyalty builds success, The Phoenix keeps its close-knit troupe together, adding new members in good measure. Artfully Edmonds has her eye on Steve Heiret in this regard. You have seen him as the tortured car salesman in Becky’s New Car and also in The Phoenix production, Here We Are.

Steve Heiret

Every comedy needs a straight man. And lest you think that role goes to a bit player – you’d be making a big error in thinking. Blogger and writer Whitney Seibold describes the importance of the straight man thusly: “The comic may have always gotten the laugh. They may seem like they’re the witty or clever or appealingly buffoonish one, but they would never be able to stand on their own. They need someone who understands them, who can play off of their personality, to be truly funny. The clown is the punchline-teller, but the straight-man has the indispensable job of setting up the joke.”

Steve Heiret - a very funny straight-man in "Moon Over Buffalo"
Steve Heiret – a very funny straight-man in “Moon Over Buffalo”

The straight-man in Friday night’s madcap romp across the boards was new-to-The Phoenix and talented scene stealer Steve Heiret. Swain to Rosalind Hay (played by Karen Hendrickson) he plays weatherman Howard – nervous to the point of neurosis (which is somehow painfully funny in itself); stuttering and the hand-wringing victim of the nutty Hay family – Heiret stole every scene that he was in. He exited the stage to applause after his first appearance in Moon Over Buffalo – that good!

But just as Steve was applauded as he left the stage, Melanie Calderwood (playing Charlotte Hay) was applauded as she entered the stage (as Roxanne in Cyrano). The fictional troupe’s production goes wildy awry. Actually, Artfully Edmonds gives a va-va-voom to Melanie in long red tresses. Edmonds! You’ve got to see Melanie as a vamp!

Eric Lewis, a talented and seasoned director, was wise to give the troupe a long rehearsal calendar. With quick exits, slamming doors and a do-si-do of weaves and bobs during the drunken scene, things could have easily gotten out of hand – but they didn’t – not at all. Congratulations from all corners, Eric. So nice to have your return to the director’s chair.

Jay Jenkins, veteran thespian returns to The Phoenix Theatre to wild applause in current run "Moon Over Buffalo" which plays through October 30.
Jay Jenkins, veteran thespian returns to The Phoenix Theatre to wild applause in current run “Moon Over Buffalo” which plays through October 30.

Jay Jenkins

Nothing in this lifetime could have prepared this reviewer for the performance of drunkenness portrayed by stage veteran Jay Jenkins, cast as George Hay. As the bridge to George’s success crumbled with each step he took across The Phoenix stage, the audience just laughed harder. George’s girlfriend, Eileen (played so nicely by actress Tracy Kirkpatrick), is pregnant and that happenstance is only complicated because George is married – to his lifelong stage partner Charlotte. With his daughter returning to announce her engagement to someone outside theatre life, and Frank Capra about to give George and Charlotte a second chance at fame – just as Charlotte is walking out on him for his dalliances – George has no choice but to get rip-roaringly, stumble, tumble and reel-across-the-stage drunk. The type of drunkenness one (possibly) remembers from their college days.

This is where the well-primed audience totally lost control of their Edmonds-Kind-Of-Decorum during Friday night’s opening. No review can prepare an audience for what goes on during this arc scene. Trust us!

The success of The Phoenix production of Moon Over Buffalo is aided greatly by cast members Cindi Boggio (Ethel); Tom Cook (as Paul); and Jim Thompson (Richard) who doubles as the production’s very astute set designer.

The My Edmonds News Tony award for this production is shared between talented straight-man Steve Heiret and the best actor this side of the Mississippi seen playing a drunken buffoon– Jay Jenkins!

Grab a good friend, as we did, and celebrate the opening production of The Phoenix Theatre’s 9th Season. Riotous, hearty laughter – guaranteed.

Tickets to Moon Over Buffalo are available at this ticket link. 

— By Emily Hill

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