Comedy reigns at TBT


News Lifestyles Editor

Winter temperatures here in Alpena finally dipped into the teens, although Thunder Bay Theatre currently offers an anecdote to the frostiness outside. Warm up indoors with some hearty laughter this week during one of four remaining performances of TBT’s latest show, the Ken Ludwig farce, “Moon Over Buffalo.”

This silly situational comedy stars two of Alpena’s most talented comedic actors, the always funny Terry Carlson and Pat Jacques. It also features all the required elements of a farce: goofy plot, mistaken identities, rapidly fired barbs, and characters bickering and slamming doors.

Carlson and Jacques team up as George and Charlotte Hay, an aging repertory theatre couple playing the stage in Buffalo, N.Y. in 1953. When the audience first meets them, they’re engaged in an amusing swashbuckling sword fight.

With their marriage crumbling around them, George and Charlotte are trying to hold their family’s theatre company together long enough to entice legendary film director Frank Capra to cast them in his film remake of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”

Chaos reigns as the couple’s prodigal daughter, Rosalind (Hannah Matzke) returns home with a nerdy and nervous weatherman for a fiance. The hitch is that the fiance, Howard (Mackenzie Fountain) hasn’t yet met her folks and before the introductions can be made, he’s mistaken for Frank Capra.

Further complicating things are Charlotte’s selectively hard-of-hearing mother, Ethel (Donna Mullin); Rosalind’s formerly jilted fiance, Paul (LeShawn Bell); a pregnant and emotionally wrought ingenue, Eileen (Sandi Schmidt); and the rich, stuffy lawyer, Richard (Randy Bouchard), who’s smitten by Charlotte and ready to fully romance her.

The hilarity keeps on trucking when someone spikes the coffee and the theatre company’s matinee schedule flips between “Cyrano de Bergerac” and Noel Coward’s “Private Lies.” Jacques exhibits some skills playing a drunk, and then steps it up even further when he clatters through a scene dressed as Cyrano, while the rest of the panicky troupe is decked out in their “Private Lies” finery all the while with Frank Capra supposedly in the audience to consider George and Charlotte for the big break of their professional acting careers.

Whether she’s beating her hubby with a rolled up version of Variety magazine or regaling all within earshot of just how much she endured giving birth to her daughter, Carlson as Charlotte turns in another outstanding performance.

The rest of the cast members also are equally entertaining in their own right with their many over-the-top antics, including scurrying about the stage and frantically trying to track each other down in and out of an assortment of doors.

To pull this production off, it takes good direction and good timing, and first-time TBT Director Kevin Johnson seems to have managed both adeptly. The set offers a convincing behind-the-scenes look at a small-town theatre.

The costumes are fun, the lighting works well, and before you know it, pure unadulturated laughter has considerably warmed up an otherwise chilly January evening.