BWW Reviews: MOON OVER BUFFALO is High on Slapstick but Low on Laughs
Actress Maureen O'Hara once said, "Comedy is difficult, especially slapstick. The trick is to have fun while you're performing it." As much as I love Ms. O'Hara, there seem to be a few tricks she's ignored. Though it's clear that the cast of City Theatre's current production of Moon Over Buffalo is having fun, they are unable to make Ken Ludwig's mediocre screwball comedy take off. While pratfalls are a dime a dozen, laughs seem hard to come by.
Much of the problem comes from Ken Ludwig's predictable and unoriginal play. While Ludwig has given us inspired slapstick work with his play Lend Me a Tenor, the recently penned murder mystery The Game's Afoot, and his book for the musical Crazy for You, his work here is simply lazy. His plot about George and Charlotte Hay, married actors who dream of abandoning their bus and truck troupe for Hollywood stardom, has been done before, as have his gags about alcohol, womanizing, and unplanned pregnancy. His play is so unoriginal, he rips off the classic Benny Hill run-off to close out his first act, and in another moment, one character says, "I just flew in from Los Angeles, and boy are my arms tired" to eye-roll inducing effect.
That's not to say that uninspired, low-brow comedy can't entertain. Indeed it can, but if the cast and crew aren't careful, the flaws will be as apparent as Seth McFarlane's discomfort during this year's Oscar telecast. Andy Brown's pacing feels slightly off the entire evening, and some performances are distractingly over the top. While leads Scott Friedman and Christina Manley are consistently delightful (Friedman's drunken stupor in Act Two is particularly fun), several of the supporting players just don't land. As the fiancée to the Hay's daughter, Bobby DiPasquale shouts all of his lines and evokes the thought of an overexcited puppy, and as George Hay's lover, Samantha Brewer is grating and screechy. Conversely, Gabriel Diehl mumbles his lines as the stage manager, Paul, and seems completely bored and uninterested in what's going on. Of the supporting cast, the only two that really succeed are Terah Zolman as the Hay's grounded daughter, Rosalind and Cindy Brown as Charlotte's snarky, sarcastic, and nearly deaf mother.
While Moon Over Buffalo has some funny moments and some strong performances, the show as a whole isn't altogether satisfying. Whether the cast is having fun or not, it seems the joke is on us.
MOON OVER BUFFALO plays The City Theatre at 3823 Airport Blvd, Austin 78722 now thru April 14th. Performances are Thursday - Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 5:30pm. Tickets are $10-$25. For tickets and information, visit www.citytheatreaustin.org.