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Moon over Buffalo will tickle your funny bone

By EARL KELLY, Staff Writer

It won’t cure cancer or bring world peace, but a comedy that opened last weekend at Colonial Players certainly will make you laugh.

The play, “Moon over Buffalo,” is the farcical tale of two over-the-hill traveling actors, husband-and-wife team George and Charlotte Hay. One review mentioned in the performance calls the Hays, played by Annapolis husband-and-wife team Duncan and Dianne Hood, “hams past their prime.”

The action takes place on one day in 1953, backstage at Buffalo, N.Y.’s Erlanger Theatre. George and Charlotte are trying to deal with an infidelity he has committed, and their daughter, Rosalind, played well by Laura E. Gayvert, is trying to break away from the theater and live a more conventional life. Charlotte’s deaf old mother, Ethel, played perfectly by Beth Whaley, is just plain trying.

Ethel has never taken to her son-in-law. In fact, early in the play she says of George’s performance, “Oh, my God, I’ve seen more talent at a dog show.”

At another point Rosalind asks Ethel, “Have you seen Daddy?” Ethel replies, “Too many times.”

All this tension is coming out just as George learns that Frank Capra is on his way to watch a matinee performance, with an eye toward casting George and Charlotte in a movie that could make them stars.

Mr. and Mrs. Hood play their roles to the hilt. It seems that Mr. Hood’s face can twist and turn to produce any expression his mind can conceive. As if that weren’t enough, the awful wig he wears in the play makes him look like an Airedale in need of a cream rinse.

Mrs. Hood is just as good. She makes perfect gestures and can deadpan with the best of them:

George: “Am I getting old?”

Charlotte: “No, dear, you’re just falling apart.”

Mrs. Hood also can project a nervous laugh that brings down the house. Her acting resembles that of Carol Burnett, which is only fitting, as Ms. Burnett played Charlotte on Broadway in 1995.

The play is a mixture of situational comedy and slapstick. By the end, George has consumed about a gallon of booze, and Mr. Hood turns his character into one of the funniest stumblebum drunks to ever sprawl across a stage.

The choreography also is excellent during a key scene, when the characters dash in and out of the green room, desperately looking for each other but always barely missing.

The final bit of insanity comes when part of the cast is in costume and on stage in one of the repertory group’s productions, Noel Coward’s “Private Lives,” and the other half is performing Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac.” The result is hilarious.

Director Edd Miller has done an excellent job with Ken Ludwig’s “Moon over Buffalo,” and all the actors play their parts well.

Jason Vaughn is perfect as Rosalind’s fiance, Howard, a clueless young TV weatherman. Rick Hall plays well his part as Richard Maynard, the family’s lawyer who wants to run off with Charlotte. And Josette Dubois makes a good Eileen, the young actress who George “gets into trouble.”

One of the most interesting performances comes from Lawrence Griffin, who plays stage manager Paul. Paul seemed to grow as the play progressed on Friday, opening night, and at the end of the performance he is a believable character.

But all these characters are simply foils for Charlotte and George to play off of, as when Paul is trying to encourage George by telling him how much his fans will miss him if he leaves the theater.

George: “All my fans? Good, you call one, I’ll call the other.”

If Colonial Players’ fans are smart, they’ll answer the call for “Moon over Buffalo.”

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