Picture an aging theatre company whose has-been actors just won’t call it quits; a daughter desperate to break away from it all, a loony mostly deaf grandmother who just adds to the lunacy and to top it all off Frank Capra’s on his way to evaluate the leading actor. Which would be fine if the lead actor wasn’t missing. And drunk. If you can put it all together on the stage then you’ve got Prince George’s Little Theatre’s production of Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo. Riotous, uproarious, there aren’t enough words to describe the laugh-a-minute comedy that spills onto the stage in this riveting fast-paced performance.
Costume Designer Denise Loukus offers splendid choices in regards to outfitting the company, managing to make them look fantastical when they are in show and still maintain the time restrictions of the play’s setting. The elegant flowing gowns for the troupe during Private Lives and the absolutely ridiculous getup for George as Cyrano adds additional laughs to the scenes—particularly Act II Scene II— every time he passes through it.
Set Designer Cynthia Bentley creates an intricate space on the stage encompassing the whole of the backstage area. Bentley’s five door design allows for maximum hilarity during the search and chase scenes, creating elements of sheer physical farce. The smattering of theatrical posters on the walls and the sparse furnishings give the room a realistic and functional look while still maintaining the theatrical feel to it.
Directed by Ann Lowe-Barrett, this cast of well balanced comedic actors provides a great afternoon out at the theatre ripe with classy timeless laughs that keeps the audience in stitches from the moment the show opens to the final curtain. The players have a tight bond among them; a high-functioning working camaraderie that really exudes the notion that they are all simply having fun. The best of comedies often achieve success when such a notion is present and this particular production is a smashing success because of it.
Howard (Donny Singh-Perry) is your average nervous Norman. Portraying the slightly out of sorts fiancé, Singh-Perry gravitates toward the crazy while never delving into the madness himself. His character is a bit of a wet blanket, but it’s perfect for this production given the way he’s slotted into the theatrical life. His slight charms are cheesy at the best of times, and he has a dysfunctional chemistry when it comes to interacting with Rosalind, all of which are intricately built into the script, making Singh-Perry’s performance practically perfect.
Rosalind (Caity Brown) is essentially a soda pop bottle. Calm, composed, sitting quietly on the shelf, even when things get shaken up, Brown manages to remain at ease until someone takes her lid off and then it’s a series of maniacal hysterical explosions. Her engaging voice shrieks shrilly across the stage during spats with her father in the middle of the production and her face and body language are lit up like roman candles to match her eruptive nature. Brown’s performance may be spastic but overall her character mellows out into something loveable, even if she hits a few romantic bumps along the way.
Those bumps come in the form of Paul (Brian McDermott) Another seemingly calm and somewhat static character until the play progresses, at which point McDermott becomes as insane as the rest of them. His physical activity is uproarious— like when he flies over the couch in an attempt to escape the room— and the tension he stirs up with Brown’s character is palpable; at times so thick you need a chainsaw to get through it. His interactions with George are hysterical and he adds a brilliant dash of spice to the production.
What really shakes things up is Ethel (Millie Ferrara). Despite being the deaf old granny, Ferrara does not fall into the stereotype associated with the character. She’s a weathered battle-ax when it comes to holding her own against George but does so with a bombastic energy, spit-firing insults back at him as fast as he can fling them. She carries on shenanigans with the best of them and makes every moment count when she’s onstage, particularly if it’s battling with George.
George (Sandy Irving) is the insane central focus of the show. He and wife Charlotte Hay (Barbara Lambert) are a tsunami of comic genius on the stage. Irving and Lambert have a tempestuous passion that roils rich with melodramatic notes of hilarity. Their arguments are fueled with vigorous fire and a combustable energy that drives the show forward.
Lambert utilizes her body to its full potential during scenes of conflict; throwing her weight behind beating her husband with a newspaper and zipping about through the doors in the frantic ‘find George’ scene. And her expressive features a positively a riot when the proverbial shit hits the fan during the stage scenes in act II.
Irving is a comic gem suited for the role, tempering his melodramatic moments with realistic displays of true thespian understanding. He utilizes perfect diction and employs a keen sense of all of the stage’s greatest leading male characters when cycling through them but has the dynamic ability to fall seamlessly into a diva. The text refers to him as an over-glazed ham and Irving lives up to the label one hundred percent. His moments of shouting fits and drunken staggering are priceless; his energy never waning even when he sinks to the lowest of lows. Irving is a sensational performer and drives the production to a simply smashing success.
Running Time: Approximately Two hours, with one intermission.
Moon Over Buffalo plays through February 16, 2013 at The Bowie Playhouse in White Marsh Park -16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 937-7458, or purchase them online.