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Philip Bosco and Carol Burnett in Moon Over Buffalo on Broadway; PC: Joan Marcus

Laughs aplenty in “Moon”

The Boston Herald, August 16, 1995

Review by Iris Fanger

“Moon Over Buffalo” at The Colonial Theater through Sept 2

Somewhere up above, in that great big Sardi’s in the sky, George S. Kaufman, Abe Burrows, Moss Hart, and all those clever fellows who wrote the comedies of yesteryear are rolling with laughter, echoing the audience last night at. Ken Ludwig’s new play, “Moon Over Buffalo.”

With nary a politically-correct intention in sight, nor an issue meant to prick the conscience, Ludwig, along with the considerable help of director Tom Moore and the on-stage firepower of Carol Burnett and Philip Bosco, has created what is surely the first hit of the coming New York season.

The play is nothing less than a love-letter to live theater, in the form of a mid-1950s backstage farce, coining at a time when the proverbial fabulous invalid is threatened by competition from ever more inventive ways to spend our time.

Ludwig has imagined a second-rate pair, George and Charlotte Hay, who are a fun-house mirror image of the traveling Lunts. The Hays have been married for 35 years and presumably shared a stage ever since. Their resume includes a slew of B-grade movies but they are now stuck in Buffalo on a B-grade repertory tour, alternating performances of Cyrano de Bergerac and Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives,” often on the same day.

Several unexpected events – George has made “one mistake” as he calls it, and gotten the young actress in the troupe pregnant, and the film director Frank Capra, is flying in to see if George can replace Ronald Colman in his latest film – upset the status quo, to set the plot tumbling in every direction. There’s not a mistaken identity left undiscovered, a door that is not slammed, nor a running gag allowed any respite, for the betterment of the theater, ca. 1995.

It’s about time someone remembered that it’s OK to be entertained and leave the editorials to the newspapers and the sermons in church, at least for one evening of our lives.

Meanwhile, there’s the pleasure of watching Burnett and Bosco leading the charge on each other in roles that any actor of a certain age would give his or her soul to play.

Bosco has the choicest part as the down-on-his-luck classical ham who never stops reciting Lear, or Hamlet, or Prospero, whether on stage or off. He is drunk for nearly the entire second act, making everyone else, even Burnett, his second-banana. And Bosco has the rolling diction and gleam in his eye to make the most of it.

When Buruett as Charlotte Hay is given a chance to sketch one of her priceless character vignettes, she does so — whether she is the discarded wife, the wounded mother reliving her daughter’s difficult birth, or the actress indifferent to anyone watching as she drops her I fancy costume, to reveal a skivvies-clad, terrific-looking body.

Burnett, who has a sense of timing that could launch a space shot on its own, needs more moments like these to run with, and less of the responsibi1ity for keeping the action in gear.

Bosco and Burnett have been surrounded by an antic crew, well up to the energy level of the nonsense Jane Connel as Charlotte’s mother casts a withering eye and a very deaf ear on the proceedings.

The scenery designed by Heidi Landesman rivals the elaborate settings of the big-time musicals, even commenting on them in the audacious opening split-stage a la “Sunset Boulevard.”

No doubt, some changes will be made to even out the episodic second act, but it looks like the Hays and their story can’t help making it on Broadway.


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