Moon Over GRT, Ken Ludwig Style
Moon Over Buffalo
by Ken Ludwig
directed by Drina Durazo
at Group rep
through June 24
A weak follow-up to Ken Ludwig's masterpiece farce Lend Me a Tenor, his Moon Over Buffalo served as a shaky vehicle to bring Carol Burnett back to Broadway in the 90s. About an aging theatrical couple somewhat akin to the Lunts or Barrymores, but less successful, whose careers have consistently declined leaving them to tour the hinterlands with little chance of limelight recognition, the play presents an unusually farcical day in the dull lives of the Hays (Chris Winfield, Suzy London) as they attempt to present Private Lives/Cyrano de Bergerac in rep at a remote theatre in Buffalo. Now onstage at Group rep, Moon rarely goes over the moon but offers a steadily humorous production through June 24.
The one thing that makes farce work is split-second timing done with an extreme sense of urgency that should leave the audience as well as the actors literally gasping for air. Director Drina Durazo gets sharp pacing from her actors, but somehow what they manage to produce is often times less than earth-shattering. It's like running a race, and lagging a hare behind. If you want to win, you must push harder, but ... the overall effort is generally a good one. Chris Winfield has a ball with his drunken scene, stumbling around with a pot of Irish coffee under his arm and nimbly carrying off several skilled pratfalls. London matches him consistently and she creates sparks with her fiery exchanges of rage and dismay at him and against her ungrateful daughter Ros (Allison King). Gwen Van Dam is a delight as deaf grandma Ethel, always making sense out of nonsense even when she cannot hear a word. Derek Mehn does standout work as stage manager Paul, who is still in love with Ros, and Ben Campbell makes the most of his extreme, quick, over-the-top reactions as dashing but nervous weatherman Howard, a difficult role to play honestly. Jennifer Ross and Kent Butler complete the able cast.
Despite a few missed opportunities for laughs, Durazo has directed skillfully this Moon Over Buffalo and her company gets the audience chuckling quite regularly. Good show!