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Posts Tagged ‘insight theatre company’

On Golden Pond
by Ernest Thompson
Directed by Trish Brown
Insight Theatre Company
July 7, 2017

Susie Wall, Joneal Joplin
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

On Golden Pond is a play that’s perhaps best known by its film adaptation, starring movie legends Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn. The play itself has been seen as a showcase for distinguished peformers, and Insight’s latest production is a prime example, featuring a cast of excellent and award-winning local performers, and particularly in its two lead roles, played by the talented and prolific Joneal Joplin and Susie Wall.

This is a play that’s more character-driven than story-driven. The story is fairly slight, in fact. It’s a look at a long-married couple spending the summer at their lake house in Maine, like they have for the previous 47 years. Norman Thayer, Jr. (Joplin) is a retired university English professor, and he’s become increasingly curmudgeonly as he approaches his 80th birthday. His more optimistic wife, Ethel (Wall), grows weary of Norman’s constant talk about death and his strained relationship with their middle-aged daughter, Chelsea (Jenni Ryan), who has come to visit for Norman’s birthday with her new boyfriend, dentist Bill (Eric Dean White) and his 15-year-old son Billy (Michael Pierce) in tow. The “story” here is about the relationships, and how Norman and Ethel come to terms with aging and with the reality of the idea that each new summer at Golden Pond may be their last. It explores themes of aging, regret, broken and reconciling relationships, inter-generational friendships, and more while providing an excellent showcase for the actors involved.

And “the actors involved” are remarkable. Joplin, one of St. Louis theatre’s most prolific actors for the past few decades, has an ideal role here with Norman. Despite the more unsavory aspects of the character–his negativity and particularly his casual bigotry–Joplin’s considerable skill as an actor brings out the sympathy in Norman’s situation, and particularly in his relationships with Ethel, Chelsea, and Billy. Wall matches Joplin in every way as well in a formidable portrayal of the insistently, persistently optimistic Ethel, and their chemistry is heartwarmingly credible. There are also strong performances from the supporting cast–Ryan as the wounded but hopeful Chelsea, Pierce as the initially moody Billy–who bonds with Norman over fishing–White in the small role of the loyal new boyfriend Bill, and also from Kurt Knoedelseder as the sweet, slightly goofy local mailman Charlie, who grew up in the area and knows the family well.

The setting is well-realized, with Matt Stuckel’s detailed set bringing the rustic summer home to life with meticulous authenticity. The digital screen serving as the picture window overlooking the lake provides a nice atmospheric touch, and Robin Weatherall’s sound design contributes to the overall effect as well, as does Geordy Van Es’s lighting. My only small quibble is that the script, written in the late 1970s, doesn’t always lend well to the updating of the setting to the present day, as this production has done. Some of the dialogue and situations make more sense with the earlier setting.

There’s drama and a good amount of humor in On Golden Pond, with its somewhat talky story and with those richly portrayed characters, with the lake house itself becoming a prominent character as well. There isn’t a lot in terms of action, but at its best, it’s a moving look at aging, youth, family, and the power of memory and hope. The heart of the show, however, is the relationship between Norman and Ethel, which is touchingly portrayed here by two superb veteran St. Louis performers.

Jenni Ryan, Susie Wall
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Insight Theatre Company is presenting On Golden Pond at the .Zack Theatre until July 23, 2017.

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Next to Normal
Book and Lyrics by Brian Yorkey, Music by Tom Kitt
Directed by Edward Coffield
Insight Theatre Company
June 9, 2017

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John Flack, Debby Lennon, Spencer Davis Milford Photo by John Lamb Insight Theatre Company

Insight Theatre Company is opening its 10th season in a new venue, and starting off with a highly regarded, Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Next to Normal. This small-cast show is an ideal fit for the .Zack in Grand Center. It’s a challenging, highly emotional show with a demanding score, and Insight has assembled an excellent cast, presenting the show in a somewhat different manner than I have seen before, and it works very well.

When I first heard of the casting for this production, I was expecting it to be good, especially since the lead role of Diana Goodman would be played by last year’s St. Louis Theater Circle Award winner for Best Actress in a Musical, Debby Lennon. And Lennon isn’t the only seasoned performer in this excellent cast. John Flack as Diana’s husband Dan, Ryan Scott Foizey as the doctors, and Spencer Davis Milford, as the Goodmans’ son Gabe have all done some excellent work in St. Louis theatre. They are joined by extremely promising newcomers Libby Jasper as the Goodmans’ conflicted teenage daughter Natalie, and Max Bahneman as Natalie’s on-again/off-again boyfriend Henry. It’s a story that focuses largely on Diana’s experiences with trying to manage her mental illness and her complicated family relationships, and also on Natalie’s struggle to deal with her own issues involving her family and her future plans. There isn’t a whole lot else I can say without spoiling too much, because this is a show that depends a lot on twists and revelations, although the central family relationships are at its core, with a strong musical score that ranges from more upbeat rock-based numbers to slower, emotional ballads. It’s a challenging work, and when staged well as it is here, it’s riveting.

This production is a little different than others I’ve seen, in terms of staging and vocals. Staging-wise, the pacing is a little slower than previous productions, with some of the line-deliveries being a little more subdued. The plot build-up seems to be more gradual as a result, and despite a slow-ish start on “Just Another Day”, the performances are excellent and well-timed. The set, designed by Robbie Ashurst, and the lighting by Charlotte Webster are more colorful as well, with an emphasis on a series of windows of varied hues hanging in the background, and aside from one slightly raised platform, most of the action takes place at stage level, also contrary to other performances I’ve seen. The costumes by Laura Hanson are appropriate and well-suited to the characters, and there’s also excellent musical direction by Ron McGowan, with a slightly different sound reflective of Lennon’s more operatic voice.

The cast is excellent, led by Lennon in a sympathetic, emotional performance as Diana, with powerful vocals on songs like “I Missed the Mountains”, “I Dreamed a Dance”, and “You Don’t Know”. Flack is also excellent as Diana’s supportive but increasingly exasperated husband, Dan. His scenes with Lennon carry a lot of power, and he brings a great deal of emotional energy to his songs, especially “I’ve Been” late in Act 1. There are also strong performances from the rich-voiced Jasper as the determined but conflicted Natalie, and by Bahneman as her sweet, persistent stoner boyfriend Henry. Milford is outstanding and full of energy as the dynamic, influential and mysterious Gabe as well, excelling especially on Gabe’s most well-known number “I’m Alive”. There’s also excellent work from Foizey as the two doctors, particularly the “rock star” Doctor Madden, although he does sound a little strained at times.

Next to Normal is a powerful, challenging show. It’s a character study as well as a story of relationships, and strong casting and musicality are essential. Those aspects are well represented in this memorable production from Insight Theatre. Although it takes a few minutes to really get going, once it does it’s engaging, fascinating, and highly affecting. It gets Insight’s new season in its new home off to an excellent start.

Ryan Scott Foizey, Spencer Davis Milford, Debby Lennon
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Insight Theatre Company is presenting Next to Normal at the .Zack Theatre until June 25, 2017.

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Inherit the Wind
by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee
Directed by Sydnie Grosberg Ronga
Insight Theatre Company
August 18, 2016

Alan Knoll, John Contini Photo by John Lamb Insight Theatre Company

Alan Knoll, John Contini
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Inherit the Wind is Lawrence and Lee’s classic play that highly fictionalizes events relating to one of the 20th Century’s most famous trials in order to communicate the playwrights’ message. It has been performed by countless professional, amateur, and school theatres over the years and it has been filmed several times. Now, Insight Theatre Company has brought this well-known play to the stage in St. Louis, featuring a cast of excellent local actors and boasting impressive production values.

The story of this play isn’t really about the Scopes trial. It’s the playwrights’ imagining of the trial seen through the lens of 1950’s McCarthyism and anti-intellectualism. The playwrights weren’t shy about saying that, notably mentioning in their preface to the script that this isn’t intended to be a historically accurate portrayal. If you want an accurate representation of what happened in Dayton, TN in 1925, there are much better resources, but the purpose of this play was never to teach a history lesson about the trial or the real people involved, and some key characters and situations have been entirely invented. Its William Jennings Bryan stand-in, Matthew Harrison Brady (Alan Knoll) comes across as more McCarthy-as-Bryan, for instance, and the primary “every day person” representative, Rachel Brown (Sigrid Wise), is an entirely original character.

The basic framework of the Scopes trial is here, though, with Brady coming to town to lead the prosecution of high school teacher Bertram Cates (Pete Winfrey) who’s been arrested for violating the state’s law against the teaching of evolution. Defending Cates is the play’s Clarence Darrow figure, the intrepid, thoughtful Henry Drummond (John Contini). The town, as portrayed here, is dominated by fundamentalist zealots who welcome the much-admired Brady with parades and prayer meetings while the agnostic Drummond becomes a target for suspicion and scorn. His biggest ally is the cynical Baltimore reporter E. K. Hornbeck (Jason Contini), who snarks his way through the ensuing trial and doesn’t bother to conceal his contempt for the town and its people. Drummond gets to be the hero here, as the representative of free thinking in a repressive society, as Brady in all his grandiosity represents repression, misplaced nostalgia, and fear of change and new ideas. In the midst of all of the debates and sensationalism we see the conflicted Rachel trying to figure what influences to follow–the past and blind obedience to tradition as represented by her father (Michael Brightman), an influential local preacher, and championed by the charismatic Brady; or the free exchange of ideas personified by Cates and, to an even larger degree, Drummond.

The two central figures in all this drama are undoubtedly Drummond and Brady, and the success of any production of this play depends largely on the casting of these two pivotal roles. In this production, the leads are extremely well-chosen. Both actors have considerable stage presence, keeping the audience’s attention riveted when they are on stage. Knoll’s Brady is full of bombast and pride, but also a real note of humanity, and John Contini’s Drummond is sympathetic, determined, and likable. Their courtroom scenes are dynamic, although their best moment is at the end of Act 1 as they sit together on a bench, reflecting on their past friendship and the direction their lives have taken. Other notable performances include Winfrey and Wise as the earnest Cates and conflicted Rachel, and Jason Contini as the proudly cynical Hornbeck. Brightman, as Reverend Jeremiah Brown, also makes the most of a role that’s written to be one dimensional. There’s a strong ensemble, as well, playing various townspeople and figures in the trial.

Visually, the re-creation of a 1920’s small town is well done, with Kyra Bishop’s excellent set and Tracey Newcomb-Margraves costumes setting the mood and atmosphere well, although there was apparently a somewhat strange decision to have most of the jury wearing modern clothes with only a few accessories (hats, shawls, etc.) to suggest the time period. Sean Savoie’s lighting and Brett Harness’s sound design also contribute well to the overall tone of the production.

Inherit the Wind has a message that still resonates today, about freedom of expression and the dangers of a restrictive, anti-intellectual society. In terms of style, it does come across as somewhat dated although the performances can make a production. That’s the case with this production at Insight, with two extremely strong leads and a memorable supporting cast making for a fascinating, thought-provoking story.

Sigrid Wise, Pete Winfrey, John Contini Photo by John Lamb Insight Theatre Company

Sigrid Wise, Pete Winfrey, John Contini
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Insight Theatre Company is presenting Inherit the Wind at Nerinx Hall’s Heagney Theatre until August 28, 2016.

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John & Jen
Book by Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald
Lyrics by Tom Greenwald, Music by Andrew Lippa
Directed by Trish Brown
Insight Theatre Company
July 15, 2016

Spencer Davis Milford, Jenni Ryan Photo by John Lamb Insight Theatre Company

Spencer Davis Milford, Jenni Ryan
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Brother and Sister. Mother and Son. These are important relationships to which many theatre goers will be able to relate, dealt with in Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald’s two-person musical John & Jen, which is currently being presented by Insight Theatre Company. The production is well-cast, for the most part, and provides an intriguing look at one woman and two important relationships in her life.

The story features two performers playing the characters at various ages and stages of their lives. Jen Tracy (Jenni Ryan) is six years old when her brother John (Spencer Davis Milford) is born, and we get to see the dynamics of their relationship as both grow up and learn to deal with the world around them and with a domineering, sometimes violent father. Jen’s wish to protect her brother conflicts with her desire to get away from her hostile home environment, and as she goes to college in the 1960’s and gets caught up in anti-war activism, John stays home under the influence of his father and eventually finds his own views about the war and life conflicting with Jen’s. This relationship has a profound impact on Jen, who later names her own son (also Milford) after her brother. We get to watch as Jen becomes a loving but sometimes overprotective mother, and as young John grows and learns to assert his own independence. The mother-son relationship is alternately strong and strained, as Jen learns to deal with her own personal issues regarding her brother and how she relates to her son.

There isn’t a lot more detail I can go into without spoiling too much, but essentially this is a character study. The primary focus is on Jen, with relationships with her brother and son providing insight into her own issues of attachment, guilt, and conflict about how to be a good mother to her son. The two performers give strong performances, with both convincingly portraying the characters at different ages, and with Milford especially doing an excellent job distinguishing between the two characters he plays, both named John. Milford also has a strong singing voice, performing the show’s songs well and displaying a great deal of energy on songs like “Dear God”, “Little League”, and “Bye Room”. Ryan, while giving a convincing acting performance, sometimes struggles with the singing, particularly as many of the songs seem a little to high for her range. Both performers portray convincing relationships, first as brother and sister, and then as mother and son, and the conclusion of the play is particularly affecting.

The show is performed on a minimalist set designed by Kyra Bishop–consisting of a series of ramps, platforms, a wall, and a swing– that provides an effective backdrop for the action of the show. There’s also excellent use of projections–also designed by Bishop and filmed by David Sanford–and Leah McFall’s excellent costumes to effectively portray the changing times as the story moves from the 1950’s and eventually into the 1980’s.  There’s also excellent lighting from Oliver Littleton and sound by Brett Harness.

John & Jen provides a lot for audience to think about, although the underlying message can be unclear at times. For the most part, though, this is a vivid, interesting character study looking at three people over the course of four decades of American history. Although the history is there as a backdrop, this is primarily a personal story, and as that it’s compelling to watch.

Spencer Davis Milford, Jenni Ryan Photo by John Lamb Insight Theatre Company

Spencer Davis Milford, Jenni Ryan
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Insight Theatre Company is presenting John & Jen at Nerinx Hall’s Heagney Theatre until July 31, 2016.

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Company
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by George Furth
Directed by Doug Finlayson
Insight Theatre Company
June 17, 2016

Cast of Company Photo by John Lamb Insight Theatre Company

Cast of Company
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Insight Theatre Company has begun its 2016 season with the classic Stephen Sondheim “concept musical”, Company. A look at marriage and singleness in New York, the show has been staged in various venues around the world since its Broadway debut in 1970. Now, at Insight, the show has been given an ambitious production that, for the most part, is an intriguing and thought-provoking character study, although the script is starting to seem a bit dated.

In this production, Martin Fox plays Robert, or “Bobby” to most of his friends. As his 35th birthday approaches, the perpetually single Bobby is challenged by his married friends to examine his choices and consider the idea of marriage. The married friends range in ages and degrees of happiness and compatibility, and through a series of vignettes we get a glimpse into their lives, as well as Bobby’s life as he interacts with the couples and goes on dates with three different women.  Through the means of Sondheim’s insightful songs and George Furth’s witty script, we are shown the merits and challenges of romance and marriage in modern day New York City.

Actually, “modern day” is one of the problems with this show as it is currently staged. Although Insight’s production is clearly set in the present with its meticulously detailed modern loft set by Peter and Margery Spack, and costumes in a varied range of current styles designed by Laura Hanson, the script and situations seem more closely tied to the early 1970s than to today. With 1970’s slang still intact, and with a picture of marriage as something of a social compulsion more so than it is generally viewed in much of today’s culture, the 2016 setting of this show ends up being somewhat jarring. Conventions such as Bobby’s listening to his answering machine messages have been portrayed as voicemails on his smart phone, although they still seem more appropriate to the earlier setting. Although the show still has timeless truths and concepts with universal appeal, I still wonder if this show would be best if staged as a period piece rather than trying to update the setting.

Still, the show is still a strong piece, with excellent songs like the iconic “Being Alive”, which is given a dynamic performance by Fox, and the acerbic “The Ladies Who Lunch”, which is sung here by Laurie McConnell as the snarky Joanne, in a strong interpretation emphasizing its sadness more than its ferocity.  There are also some excellent production numbers that superbly feature the whole cast, such as the excellent Act 2 opening song-and-dance “Side by Side by Side”. Other songs suffer from the difficult acoustics in the venue, such as the title song that opens the show, and Samantha Irene’s (as Marta) more lackluster rendition of the show’s normally dynamic ode to New York, “Another Hundred People”.

The cast here ranges from ideal to OK, but for the most part does an excellent job. The standouts are Fox in a charming performance as the conflicted Bobby, McConnell as Joanne, and Stephanie Long as the anxious Amy, who delivers a superb rendition of “Getting Today” supported by the ensemble. Matt Pentecost as her intended, Paul, gives a convincing and amiable performance as well. There are also memorable performances from Bailey Reeves as one of Bobby’s girlfriends, somewhat ditzy flight attendent April, and Jonathan Hey and Cherlynn Alvarez as David and Jenny, who spend an awkwardly funny evening smoking pot and sharing uncomfortable truths with Bobby. Generally, it’s a strong cast, although due to the aforementioned sound problems it’s sometimes difficult to understand what people are singing, especially in the more wordy group songs.

Company is a well-respected classic show that was a game-changer in the musical theatre world in its day. Despite some dated language and concepts, it’s still a strong show, with a top-notch score by one of the all-time great composers and lyricists in musical theatre. Although Insight’s staging isn’t perfect, it hits a lot more than it misses. It’s a worthwhile opener for their new season.

Martin Fox (center) and Cast Photo by John Lamb Insight Theatre Company

Martin Fox (center) and Cast
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Company is being presented by Insight Theatre Company at Nerinx Hall’s Heagney Theatre until July 3, 2016.

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Spinning Into Butter
by Rebecca Gilman
Directed by Trish Brown
Insight Theatre Company
August 29th, 2015

John Contini, Kurt Knoedelseder, Jenni Ryan, Erin Kelley Photo by John Lamb Insight Theatre Company

John Contini, Kurt Knoedelseder, Jenni Ryan, Erin Kelley, John J. O’Hagan
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Insight Theatre Company’s season-ending production, Spinning Into Butter, deals with important issues that are more timely than ever in today’s world. It’s a well-structured play given an impressive presentation at Insight. With a strong cast and excellent production values, this play is sure to make audiences think.

In this play, playwright Rebecca Gilman has set this very issue-oriented story into specific context. The central figure, Sarah Daniel (Jenni Ryan), the Dean of Students at a small Vermont college, deals with the struggles of how to confront various situations that arise among students of color at her predominantly white college. There’s Patrick Chibas (Rahames Galvan), who qualifies for a scholarship but is uncomfortable with the categories regarding ethnicity on the application form. There’s also the unseen Simon Brick, an African-American student who has been receiving hateful anonymous messages.  When Sarah brings in her fellow academics to deal with the crisis, their answers are problematic, to say the least. These situations set in motion a series of events that eventually leads to Sarah’s confronting herself and her own attitudes.

This is a well-structured play, presenting Sarah as a well-meaning but somewhat confused academic official surrounded by others who don’t help the situation. There are two figures who serve as more reasonable sounding boards–professer Ross Collins (John J. O’Hagan), who has complicated personal relationship with Sarah; and Mr. Meyers, the campus security officer who acts as something of an unofficial spokesperson for Simon. The antagonists are Deans Catherine Kenney (Erin Kelley) and Burton Strauss (John Contini), who often appear to be more concerned with the college’s reputation–or their own–than the needs of the students.  There’s also a young student, Greg Sullivan (Elliot Auch), who presents something of an enigma, in that his role in the story turns out to be much different than I was expecting. The issues raised here are complicated and vital, but the purpose here seems more to be a cause for reflection than anything else. Gilman doesn’t give easy answers, presenting subjects for drama and thought rather than offering easy solutions, since there are none to give.

The performances here are strong, led by the personable Ryan as Sarah, who goes on an obvious emotional journey through the course of the story. As the character begins to ask some extremely tough questions of herself, Ryan makes this process believable. She plays well opposite O’Hagan, who is likable as the conflicted but concerned Ross. Contini and Kelley are both memorable, giving a measure of depth to their roles as stuffy academics. Galavan, Auch, and Knoedelseder are all convincing in their roles, as well, with Knoedelseder emerging as probably the play’s wisest voice, and Auch convincingly portraying a character whose motives change in a somewhat surprising way.

As is usual for Insight, the technical aspects of this production are strong. The set, by Jeffrey Behm, is an appropriately detailed representation of a well-appointed academic’s office.  Tracey Newcomb’s costumes suit the characters well, the the sound (by Robin Weatherall) and lighting (by Paige Seber) are suitably effective.  The scene changes can occasionally last a little too long, but I hope that’s a detail that can be ironed out as the show’s run continues.

The most important conclusion that can be drawn from this play is that these topics require honest thought and dialogue. A show like this is there to simply help start the discussion. Insight’s well-staged production does that about as effectively as I can imagine, with a strong cast and staging that manages to take issues out of the realm of the theoretical and make them effectively personal.

John J. O'Hagan, Jenni Ryan Photo by John Lamb Insight Theatre Company

John J. O’Hagan, Jenni Ryan
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Insight Theatre Company’s production of Spinning Into Butter runs at the Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall in Webster Groves until September 13th, 2015.

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Moon Over Buffalo
by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Edward Coffield
Insight Theatre Company
July 25, 2015

Will Bonfiglio, Alan Knoll, Jenni Ryan Photo by John Lamb Insight Theatre Company

Will Bonfiglio, Alan Knoll, Jenni Ryan
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

“All the world’s a stage”, Shakespeare wrote, but for some people, the stage is their world. Insight Theatre’s latest production, Ken Ludwig’s outrageous backstage farce Moon Over Buffalo, depicts a couple of past-their-prime stage stars for whom show business is their life, although family conflicts and the lure of Hollywood complicate that life. Insight has brought this play to life in a fast-paced, laugh-a-minute production that calls to mind the theatre world of yesteryear while managing to emphasize some timeless themes as well.

Backstage at the Erlanger Theatre in Buffalo New York, celebrated stage performers George (Alan Knoll) and Charlotte Hay (Jenni Ryan) are leading a company of actors on the latest stop of a tour. They’re performing two plays in repertory–Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac and Noel Coward’s Private Lives. Their daughter, Rosalind (Sam Auch) used to perform with the troupe but has left showbiz for the “real world”, and returns to visit so she can introduce her parents to her new fiance, star-struck TV weatherman Howard (Will Bonfiglio). That’s only the start of the story. The rest is a comedy of many surprises, involving Rosalind’s ex-boyfriend Paul (Pete Winfrey), who still loves Rosalind; her feisty grandmother Ethel (Tommy Nolan), who rarely remembers her hearing aid; company member Eileen (Kara Overlein), who may or may not be having a fling with George; and Richard (Eric Dean White), the Hays’ lawyer, who is harboring a not-so-secret romantic interest in Charlotte.  What follows is a hilarious, slapstick farce involving love triangles, mistaken identity, mixed up performances and costumes, and in a vein similar to another famous backstage comedy,  Noises Off, lots of running in and out of doors.  It’s a story that doesn’t make a lot of sense if you take it seriously, but fortunately “serious” is about the last word you can use to describe this play–unless of course you mean “seriously funny”, because Moon Over Buffalo certainly is that.

The delightful cast has no weak links, and is led by Knoll in a memorable performance as the bombastic, vain George. He’s got the timing down to a science, especially excelling in his drunk scenes. Ryan matches him as the somewhat jaded Charlotte, who seems to be a little more grounded than her husband. Auch is fine as Rosalind, as well, especially pairing well with Winfrey as the still lovestruck Paul. Winfrey has a goofy, energetic charm about him and plays the physical comedy well. There are also strong performances from Nolan as the confrontational Ethel, White as the more subdued Richard, Overlein as the emotional Eileen, and Bonfiglio in a scene-stealing performance as the delightfully goofy Howard. This play depends a great deal on comedic timing, and these players execute that well. There’s a particularly side-splitting section in Act 2 involving a mixed-up stage performance that highlights most of the performers comic abilities and keeps the audience laughing out loud.

The scene has been set ideally by means of Peter and Margery Spack’s remarkably detailed set. The backstage of a 1950’s theatre has been meticulously recreated and decorated with all sorts of theatrical paraphernalia and Margery Spack’s excellent period-specific props.  The costumes, designed by Erin Reed, are colorful and well-suited, as well, from the 1950s clothes to the theatrical costumes for Cyrano and Private Lives. It’s a very strong technical production, providing the appropriate whimsical atmosphere for the chaotic goings-on of the show.

Laughter is the number one goal of a show like this, and Insight’s production achieves that goal with zeal and gusto.  It also provides a little window into the world of theatre in the middle of the 20th century, when television was starting to emerge as an important force in entertainment, and films had already become predominant. The main reason for a show like Moon Over Buffalo, though, is to make its audience laugh, and it does that well. It’s a zany, charming farce that holds the audience’s attention from the beginning and holds it until the end.

 Insight Theatre Company’s Moon Over Buffalo runs at the Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall, Webster Groves, until August 9th, 2015.

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