BWW Reviews: MOON OVER BUFFALO Never Stops
From the first sounds uttered at the beginning of the show, until the last moments when everyone is shouting at once, MOON OVER BUFFALO had more yelling during its presentation last night than the A-Day football scrimmage at the University of Alabama had earlier that afternoon.
After talking loudly to the hard of hearing Ethel, played by Suzanne Mann, Rosalind, played by the darling Reagan Dickey, kept right on shouting the rest of the play. I began to wonder if the entire cast was hard of hearing and if they thought the whole audience was as well! To my way of thinking, a play must have peaks and valleys to be interesting. Just as a rainy day makes us appreciate a sunny one or a tragedy makes us appreciate our good fortune, a few quiet moments make us laugh more at the loud ones. There are no quiet moments in MOON OVER BUFFALO as presented at Virginia Samford Theatre.
I am all for slapstick and physical comedy, but once again, every movement being exaggerated not only gets old fast, but makes the moments that warrant over the top gestures not stand out. MOON OVER BUFFALO contains plays within the play and for differentiation I am fine with those moments being a bit over the top. After all, the main characters are supposed to be hacks on stage. But when they are offstage, they are just as bad. Now believe me, I know that actors are overly dramatic even in our everyday lives, but not like this! These characters back stage resembled the melodrama of a WWE bout rather than a behind the scenes, madcap portrayal of actors.
Although there are many funny lines throughout, lots of them are lost in all of the screaming. Some of the awkward blocking coupled with the constant shouting makes for a clunky performance by many. David Strickland as Howard, one of the few characters who is not an actor, is charming and uses a little more restraint than most. Ms. Mann, while playing the one character who is hard of hearing, also shows more finesse. In Act 2 Ms. Mann gives a look over her shoulder that is funnier and speaks way more than any of the hollering. It proves my point that shouting is not necessarily amusing. You have to build to laughs and high points in a show. This one starts big, has nowhere to grow and stays in the same place the whole time. It is exhausting.
The set is well done- attractive, appropriate and sturdy. With all of the running around on the stairs and through the doors over and over, it never rattles or shakes. The costumes are also perfect for the time period and situations.
In the last scene George Hay, played by Barry Austin, gets down on one knee for a brief recitation. It is lovely. Then the phone rings and every person on stage begins shouting again, all at once and the brief respite is over. I wanted more of those moments.
For someone like me who believes in keeping it real when it comes to acting, this production was a letdown. Lines that needed to be said over each other were not, phones rang only after conversations had stopped, everyone appeared hyper, the physical comedy was too over the top for my taste and my ears are still ringing from the shouting. I think this presentation could have been much better if there were moments of control. After all, when did you fear your parents the most, when they yelled at you or when they quietly told you how much trouble you were in through clenched teeth? I think some variety in volume and intensity would have made for a much more entertaining evening. There was so much there to work with as far as tech, talent and script that I was truly disappointed in the finished product.