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'Moon Over Buffalo' Rises

Now in its 38th season, Reston acting troupe prepares for latest CenterStage performance.

With last minute rehearsals in full swing, local actors and actresses are putting the finishing touches on the Reston Community Players (RCP) first performance of the new year. A new year of community theater Reston-style will be begin with Ken Ludwig’s comedy tour-de-farce, "Moon Over Buffalo," when the curtain goes up on Friday, Jan. 23 at the Reston Community Center’s (RCC) CenterStage theater.

Coming on the heels of last year’s production of "Present Laughter," the Reston Players are again turning their attention to a theater-related story, but this time the scene shifts to blustery Buffalo, N.Y. circa 1953. Actors Joe Richardson and Mary Anne Sullivan play George and Charlotte Hay, the "fading stars" of a out-of-the-way forgotten repertory company who are looking for their one last shot at fame. "Moon Over Buffalo" promises comedy and adventure as the show includes swashbuckling fight scenes choreographed by RCP’s Noble Blades, the area’s only professionally-trained community theater-based stage combat troupe.

"We are very excited to stage another comedy by Washington, D.C. area playwright Ken Ludwig," said Sue Pinkman, the show’s director and RCP president. "Veteran theater-goers and first-timers alike will enjoy the show which builds on the success of Ludwig’s earlier comedy ‘Lend Me a Tenor’ and staged by RCP in the mid-’90s."

AN INVESTMENT ADVISOR by day, Pinkman has been with the group since 1979 and has directed seven performances for RCP. "I never get tired of this place," she said. "Every year, we have to start from scratch, but I love directing. It’s such a power trip. It is total control and yet, that is very daunting. Sometimes you are asking total strangers to trust you and you have to go like a used car salesman and convince everybody that your vision is right. "

The director says she is especially enjoys directing comedies. "It’s just such a great treat to be able to make people laugh," she said.

While Pinkman has worked in semi-professional theater environments, she says that nothing is quite like the community theater stage. "It’s a whole different angle when you know the people who are in the audience," Pinkman said. "I mean Joe Richardson is the local dentist in town. So everybody who walks in the office, he tells them to go see him in the show. You don’t get that anywhere else."

Richardson has been entertaining local audiences for 13 years. He said he first caught the acting bug after driving his children from one theater rehearsal to another. He thought it looked fun and figured he could do just as well, if not better, as some of the actors in the local plays. "I get such a thrill being on stage," Richardson said. "It’s extremely gratifying to hear the audiences laugh."

Like his character, Richardson said he will do anything for a laugh. "Yeah, I guess we both have our dreams of the big time," the local dentist-turned-thespian said, laughing. "Getting that big laugh, it is like nothing else."

Karen Schlumpf, who orchestrated the fight scenes, predicts that laughs won’t be hard to come by during the show. "It’s a great comedy full of laugh-out-loud scenes and some touching moments," Schlumpf said. "It must be funny, because we are still laughing and we have been working on this for weeks."

Like most actors, professional and amateur alike, Richardson still gets nervous on opening night. "It’s good nerves," he said. "I’m excited. I am like a horse in a starting gate, you have to hold me back."