Moon Over Buffalo took the stage February 10th-18th. Local critic Ben Sharp penned a review following the show on Friday, February 16th:

A famous fictional Roman general once asked the question, “Are you not entertained?” Well, when it comes to the Wharton Plaza Theatre’s Moon over Buffalo, the answer is a most emphatic “Yes!” Scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tonight and 2:30 p.m. tomorrow, the Ken Ludwig comedy is about as enjoyable as it gets. From slapstick humor to a Shakespearean-worthy plot, the play is an absolute must-see.

It should perhaps come as no surprise that the production is so memorable considering that Plaza veteran Jami Hughes is at the helm. Well-known for her own dynamic acting and singing (she’s performed in more than 17 shows), Hughes brings a wondrous blend of creativity and energy to the director’s chair. From a marvelous, interactive set to exquisite costuming, Moon over Buffalo is a prime example of how to put on a play, and do it right.

While Hughes and her stage crew must be credited for a stellar job, it’s the actors that really make the show shine. The play calls for only eight performers, and each proves to be the very embodiment of their characters.

Reagan Wrench plays the main character, George Hay, and simply steals the show. No stranger to the Plaza, Wrench has been involved with more than 50 previous productions, spending time on-stage as well as in the director’s chair. His portrayal of a down-on-his-luck stage actor trying to find relevance in a new era of television and movies is spot-on, growing in intensity as the show’s plot nears a conclusion. Later scenes where his character suffers from the effects of an overabundance of alcohol are absolutely brilliant, bringing to mind Hollywood icon Dick Van Dyke’s dynamic performances.

Balancing Wrench’s mania is Janice McDonald, who plays Charlotte Hay. McDonald has graced the Plaza stage for nearly three decades, and she never disappoints, her on-stage charisma and chemistry unmistakable. She is very natural in line delivery and in emotive expression, and she serves as the perfect antagonist to Wrench’s character. Their strained marriage is as hilarious as it is poignant.

Quinn Wrench is another well-known Plaza veteran, having more than 50 production credits under her belt, and she is a comic anchor as Ethel. Her banter with Reagan Wrench perfectly encapsulates the quintessential tension that exists between husband and mother-in-law, and her antics resulted in raucous laughter from the audience.

Camille Mund, a 10-year veteran of the Plaza, is perfect as the naive but worldly Eileen. No matter what role she undertakes, Mund always brings a refreshing charm to the stage. Her natural delivery and stage presence are always appreciated, and the only complaint this reviewer had about her performance was that she was not on stage nearly enough.

Plaza newcomers Kylee Bates and Aiden Tarango are nothing short of excellent as Rosalind and Howard, respectively. Bates, a Wharton County Junior College drama student, is mesmerizing in her role as a daughter whose fate it is to continue in the family theater business. Outfitted in a dazzling red dress for most of the show, Bates possesses a surprising maturity for someone of her age and experience, delivering lines with a panache that would normally be present in a much more veteran actress. She has star potential galore, and it will be interesting to see how far she climbs as her career continues.

Tarango, playing the part of Bates’s fiance, is one of the most delightful characters in the play. As a bungling star-struck weatherman, he was absolutely hilarious, emoting perfectly and timing his lines (and facial expressions) in a manner which delighted the audience. His repartee with Bates is fantastic, and his near-kidnapping at the hands of Rodrigo Gutierrez, playing the role of Paul, is one of the funniest moments in the entire show.

Speaking of Gutierrez, he is a literal force to be reckoned with, commanding attention every time he steps out onto the stage. His vocal projection and energy are absolutely unparalleled, and his chemistry with Bates is natural and genuine. He brings to mind early Leonardo DiCaprio performances, and it’s not too difficult to imagine him on the bow of a doomed ocean liner, holding the hand of a beautiful heroine (Bates perhaps?) as the icy water and a certain death beckon from below.

Ron Seville rounds out the cast as Richard and, as always, handles his role with the utmost of class. Seville possesses a unique stage presence, one first experienced during last fall’s A Christmas Carol, and it’s undeniable that he has something very special when it comes to acting.

Production credits include: Jenna Crowell and Matthew Graff serving as assistant directors, Dante Hancock and Carly Kubicek serving as stage managers, Sara Marie Barrett as a crew member, Burke Wilkins working on set design and construction, Sarah Wilkins working with set construction, Al Folmar handling props, Karis Meek overseeing costumes, Kenny Socha handling lights and Leanna Shimek taking care of sound. Concessions management was handled by Jazlyn Rutherford. Russell Kacer oversaw communications and Sharon Joines provided photography services.

The show is presented by Jim & Zoe Bouligny.

ABOUT BEN SHARP: Ben Sharp is is Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Wharton County Junior College and spends his days writing press releases, photographing a wide variety of college activities and publishing the college’s e-Newsletter. He previously spent 14 years as a reporter at the Wharton Journal-Spectator and also operated a photography business. He holds an English degree from the University of Houston. He lives in Wharton with his wife, Kristen, and their three kids, Madalyn, Andrew and Matthew.