By Vicki Paris Goodman
Whenever I review farce, I’m compelled to “apologize” for my review with an admission that the genre is my least favorite. Frankly, most farce leaves me bored and underwhelmed. So my confession is meant to encourage readers to take my lack of enthusiasm with a grain of salt.
Well, Moon Over Buffalo, written by Ken Ludwig, is about as typically farcical as you can get. So why was I in stitches instead of continually checking my watch? Suffice it to say, there is no need for apologies on this occasion. The Long Beach Playhouse’s Mainstage production of Moon Over Buffalo is thoroughly entertaining and delightful.
The play centers around middle-aged George and Charlotte Hay (Gregory Cohen and Beverly Turner), married actors who run a theatrical repertory company in Buffalo and still await their first big break. The year is 1953, and the repertory company is going broke.
Meanwhile, George has “gone astray” by “making hay” with pretty young Eileen (Kristi Pruett). And the Hays’ actress-daughter Roz (Madison Mooney) has left her tempestuous relationship with stagehand Paul (Stephen Lydic) to seek normalcy with milquetoasty television weatherman Howard (Derek Bulger).
Cort Huckabone plays the Hays’ witty lawyer Richard, who takes advantage of George’s dalliance in order to pursue Charlotte. Donna Lee Taylor owns the role of Ethyl, Charlotte’s hearing-challenged mother and the theater’s taken-for-granted girl Friday.
Andrew Vonderschmitt directs the capable cast, boldly anchored by Playhouse veterans Cohen and Turner in the starring roles.
The action fires up at first via Eileen’s pregnancy by George. That misfortune is soon overshadowed by the excitement generated when famous director Frank Capra calls to announce that he will be attending an upcoming performance of the repertory company to seek replacement actors for roles abdicated due to an injury suffered by Hollywood heavyweight Ronald Coleman.
Charlotte and George fight spectacularly over the affair, while Roz and Paul scream at each other a bit too intimately over trivialities. Ethyl holds her own in the face of her son-in-law’s vicious verbal abuse. And Eileen and Howard just seek sanctuary from the lunacy.
Some of the acting is, admittedly, overdone. But the mastery of farce exhibited by Turner and, especially, Cohen, grounds the production. Cohen’s discerning versatility and unabashed lack of inhibition are something to behold. He is a fallible man, believable lover, and drama queen all rolled into one. His drunken scenes capture every conceivable aspect of the condition.
Turner, on the other hand, exhibits facial expressions combining the dexterity of a Jim Carrey with the look of Carol Burnett.
While tempers flair, relationships hang in the balance and the requisite mistaken identities complicate matters considerably. But when all seems lost due to a misbegotten performance, fate comes to the rescue in this very enjoyable Moon Over Buffalo.
Moon Over Buffalo continues on the Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage through March 5. General admission tickets are $22; $20 for seniors. Student tickets are $12 with valid student ID. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm, with Sunday matinees at 2pm. The Long Beach Playhouse is located at 5021 E. Anaheim St. Call (562) 494-1014 for reservations and information. Tickets are also available online at lbplayhouse.org.
Photo courtesy of Long Beach Playhouse