Lend me some lunacy

Moon Over Buffalo

Written by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Brian Feehan
The St. Bartís Players
St. Bartís Playhouse
Park Avenue at 50th Street (Manhattan)
(212) 378-0248; www.members.aol.com/bartsweb
Non-union production (closes February 18)
Review by Judd Hollander

 

Farce requires a delicate balancing act. Do too much and you slip into melodrama; do too little and the whole thing falls flat. Fortunately, the St. Bartís Players production of Moon Over Buffalo pretty much pulls it off, with a few missteps here and there. But itís certainly much better then the 1995 Broadway version.

 

Set backstage at Buffaloís Erlanger Theater, as represented by a wonderful set (by Blair Mielnik) circa 1953, we meet George and Charlotte Hay (Robert Berger and Barbara Blomberg). Once the toast of Broadway, the couple has fallen upon hard times (and the passing of years) and is now in the middle of a repertory tour of Americaís hinterlands. Depressed because they were passed over for a film which would have put them back on top, things go from bad to worse when Charlotte learns George slept with a young woman in the company (Anne Watters) who, as a result, is pregnant with Georgeís child.

 

Furious, Charlotte decides to run off with their lawyer (Brian Haggerty) whoís been not so secretly pursuing her for years; a decision which makes the ever-repentant George go completely to pieces. Complicating matters further is the unexpected arrival of their daughter Roz (Lisa Hokans) who forsook the family business for the relatively sane world of advertising and who now wants to introduce her folks to her fiancť (Marc Strauss). Roz might still be carrying a torch for Paul (Brad Negbaur), an actor with the troupe. There's also the sudden realization that a Hollywood bigshot will be in the audience that afternoon, and the film role once thought lost is now very much a possibility.

 

The play is filled with such devices as mistaken identity, miscommunication, sudden eruptions of passion, slamming doors, offstage crashes, innocent souls caught up in the mayhem and spots where the audience is left to imagine the worst. The problem is that Ludwigís script is rather lazy and it's up to the cast to take what's basically B-grade material and make it shine. Fortunately, theyíre up to the task.

 

This play requires a directorís firm hand and Feehanís guidance falters somewhat. Much of the first act needs to be played faster (a bit where a pair of pants keep ripping is not as nearly funny as it could be). Thereís also one scene (when Roz and Paul meet) thatís played so broadly itís as if the performers are winking at the audience about the absurdity of the situation instead of being in the moment.

 

Berger and Blomberg play off each other perfectly, though each goes a bit too far over the top at points, but theyíre able to bring the characters under control before long. Strauss is nicely dull in a thankless role, while Hokans is endlessly watchable as a levelheaded girl reduced to a screaming madwoman once she returns to the life she once forsworn. Veteran actress Jean Streit is good as Charlotteís hard-of-hearing mother, though the routine begins to wear thin rather quickly. The entire cast is dressed to vintage perfection in Kimberly Matelaís accurately stylish 1950ís costumes.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

Copyright 2007 Judd Hollander

Return to Volume Thirteen, Number Three Index

Return to Volume Thirteen Index

Return to Home Page