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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 29, 2009

“A love letter to live theater”
GHS over the moon about Ludwig’s comedy

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — “Think of all the joy you bring to people out there in the darkness,” says George Hay to his wife, Charlotte.

That line, delivered by Josh Palagyi, a junior at Guilderland High School, works on two levels. Palagyi, still in his teens, convincingly plays the part of a middle-aged stage actor in Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo.

“He has a great robust voice and a great head of hair,” says the play’s director, Andy Maycock, an English teacher at the high school. He goes on about Palagyi, “He’s built like you would expect an older actor; he’s a solid guy.”

 George and his wife are actors at the breaking point. After decades on stage together, they are performing in a repertory theater in Buffalo — Cyrano de Bergerac in one performance and Noel Coward’s Private Lives in the next.

Charlotte had dreamed of becoming a Hollywood film star and had a last shot, a long shot, when Frank Capra calls, looking for replacement stars for The Scarlet Pimpernel. They blow the performance that Capra is to see — a drunken George is playing Cyrano as the others are in the midst of Private Lives.

Charlotte is played by Gabby Formica, a Guilderland senior, in a role that Ludwig created for Carol Burnett. Burnett made her return to Broadway with the play in 1995, after a decades-long hiatus, and was nominated for a Tony Award.

“Gabby is really inventive, really intense, and always right,” said Maycock. “She’ll get an idea and rewind a scene in a whole new way. She cracks me up.”

Charlotte, suitcase in hand, plans to leave George for a lawyer when he makes his plea.

“You’ll die prematurely. He’ll bore you to death,” says George. He regales her with the fun the couple has had, traveling from town to town, being treated like royalty, signing autographs. He urges her not to throw it away “because you lost some measly role in a film.” He uses the line about bringing joy to people in darkness.

George admits living without Charlotte would terrify him.

The tempo switches quickly to comedy as she puts down her suitcase and sits beside him. “I hate getting older, starting to look like Ed Sullivan,” she laments.

The play is clearly set in the 1950s as that line attests, yet it transcends the period.  The on-stage mayhem careens from the 1640’s Paris of Cyrano — filled with passion and pathos — to the 1930’s comedy of manners created by Coward.

Throughout, Moon Over Buffalo is a play about theater — an endorsement of the joy that “people out there in the darkness” can feel.


The 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, about the French dramatist and duelist who courted through the handsome face of another because his nose was too long, introduced the word “panache” to the English language. The Guilderland actors play their parts with panache.

“There’s a cast of only eight,” said Maycock, who is in his 15th year of directing Guilderland plays. “Everyone is a standout. I told the kids — everyone’s so different: urgent, frantic, clueless, charming, frazzled.”

Since there has never been a movie made of Moon Over Buffalo — Iris Fanger of The Boston Herald called the play “nothing less than a love-letter to live theater” — the Guilderland actors have been free in creating their own interpretations of the roles.

“It’s not a play people have heard of,” said Maycock. “It’s funny on the page; in the hands of these actors, it’s a riot.” 

Christine Rosano plays the part of Rosalind, the Hays’ daughter, once an actress who left for a normal life and returns with a fiancé, Howard, played by Alex Dvorscak. Her first fiancé, Paul, played by C. J. Higgins, is still on the set as the stage manager.  And so is a beautiful young actress, Eileen, played by Emily Drooby.

“She’s pregnant,” says Maycock of Eileen, the result of what George terms his “one mistake” — a one-night stand.

“They need an understudy,” said Maycock, “and press their daughter to fill in.” She does. “Things go from bad to worse,” said Maycock.

In the midst of the part-Cyrano, part-Private Lives performance, a drunken George careens off the stage into the orchestra pit and ends up in the hospital.

Ethel, Charlotte’s near-deaf mother, played by Cecilia Snow, reacts with wide-eyed horror as does the rest of the cast.

As rapidly as things unravel, they are tidily knit back up again.

Ludwig has said his favorite writer is William Shakespeare, and Ludwig’s comedy, like Shakespeare’s, is a series of short arcs ending with several couples getting together.

Eileen and Howard both find happiness in normalcy. It turns out, as Howard puts it, “We went steady in high school, here in Buffalo.”  Eileen wants to start a family right away, Howard announces. George promptly offers to be the godfather.

Paul, the stage manager, literally sweeps Roz off her feet, announcing, “Our first play should be Much Ado About Nothing followed by She Stoops to Conquer.”

Charlotte and George stand together as George prepares to pass the torch to the pair who can now play the younger roles he and his wife once played.

But wait — there’s more. The phone rings.

At a rehearsal this week, Richard, played by Jordan Lloyd, suggests, since Ethel is nearly deaf, “Can I yell, ‘The phone!’ because I’m annoyed already?”

The cast agrees this is a good addition to the script, and Maycock suggests they all look towards the phone.

They do.

“Ring! Ring!” the director intones.

Who could it be?


For the first time, there will be three performances of the Guilderland High School fall play — on Thursday, Nov. 5; Friday, Nov. 6; and Saturday, Nov. 7. Curtain time is 7 p.m.

The high school is off of School Road in Guilderland Center.

Tickets cost $5.

“You can’t beat that bargain,” said Maycock. “We haven’t raised the price for as long as I’ve been here.”

“Anybody high school age and up will enjoy the play,” he said. “Because of marital infidelity, parents probably wouldn’t want to explain that to an elementary kid,” Maycock said, adding, “We’ve modified the language a little, though, so there’s nothing unseemly.”

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