Moon Over Buffalo Keeps The Audience Roaring

By Robert W. McDowell

Towne Players of Garner artistic director Beth Honeycutt’s briskly paced production of Ken Ludwig’s uproarious backstage comedy, Moon Over Buffalo, kept the audience roaring throughout the Saturday-matinee performance. Honeycutt and Greg Flowers were simply delightful as Charlotte and George Hay, a couple of has-been actors condemned to tour the vast theatrical wasteland, performing Noel Coward’s Private Lives and Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac in rep.

When the curtain rises, it is 1953 in Eisenhower’s America. Watching television is fast replacing attending live theater as one of the nation’s favorite leisure-time activities.

George and Charlotte Hay are a poor man’s version of the incomparable real-life acting couple of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine. George is a handsome middle-aged ham actor, with a drinking problem and a wayward eye. His latest victim is Eileen (Anna Jenkins), the company ingénue whose roles will have to be recast once her unplanned pregnancy begins to show.

Charlotte is a lovely middle-aged actress, who still insists on playing younger women’s roles. But Charlotte is beginning to wonder if there is more to life than perpetual touring with a drunken, philandering husband and a handful of faithful retainers.

Beth Honeycutt expertly captures Charlotte’s increasing ambivalence about George, and she amply demonstrates the admirable poise and dignity that gets Charlotte through a hundred daily disasters with George. Charlotte may insist on playing younger than her years onstage, but she is a realist about her offstage relationships. Honeycutt also subordinates her own acting ego, and becomes the perfect straight woman for Greg Flowers’ outrageous drunken antics as George.

Director Beth Honeycutt helps her co-star Greg Flowers garner the lion’s share of the laughs by exploiting to the hilt the slapstick possibilities of his role. Thus, Flowers’ larger-than-life performance as George Hay accents the old ham’s towering ego in matters theatrical and romantic and his rubbery-legged pratfalls while under the influence of strong drink. Careening about the stage on unsteady pins, Flowers makes the most of this moment in the spotlight and gives his finest comic performance to date.

Maggie Cochran is amusing as the Hays’ prodigal daughter, Rosalind, who has rejoined the company temporarily, so she can introduce her fiancé Howard (Joshua Hamilton) to her parents. Hamilton is funny in his fish-out-of-water role as a TV weatherman trying to please his prospective in-laws, but Michael Armstrong is a bit too frantic as Rosalind’s former fiancé Paul.

Ethel Webster is a pip as Charlotte Hay’s irascible nearly deaf mother Ethel, a former actress who strongly and openly disapproves of her profligate son-in-law while serving as a jill-of-all-trades to the troupe. Anna Jenkins contributes a nice cameo as the pregnant and increasingly distraught Eileen; Scott Honeycutt has some funny moments as Richard, the family lawyer who not so secretly carries a torch for Charlotte; and Holmes Morrison, Rob Smith, and Frances Stanley add some laughs in walk-on roles.

Director Beth Honeycutt and technical director Scott Honeycutt, who double as set designers for the show, create the most realistic and detailed Towne Players set to date; and the costumes include a handsome array of period fashions, with one glaring exception. Why does the uniform worn by a character to play legendary World War II U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton sport a single stripe on its right sleeve? Has old Blood and Guts been demoted?

All in all, this Towne Players presentation of Moon Over Buffalo is not only local community theater at its finest. It is a star-making turn for Greg Flowers. There is not enough mustard — or a big enough bun — to hold ham actor such as George Hay, as played by Greg Flowers.

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WHAT: ROBERT’S REVIEWS is a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter written by Robert W. McDowell and Scott Ross. John Lambert and Classical Voice of North Carolina reprint ROBERT’S REVIEWS online at http://www.cvnc.org/Theatre.html. QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS? E-mail RobertM748@aol.com.

WHO: Since 1973, ROBERT W. McDOWELL has written theater, book, and music reviews for SPECTATOR Magazine of Raleigh, NC; the Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER; THE RALEIGH TIMES; and NORTH CAROLINA Magazine of Raleigh. SCOTT ROSS is a prize-winning playwright who has written theater criticism for SPECTATOR (1981-86), movie and book reviews for the N&O (1986-91), and served as dance, comedy, and theater editor for Triangle.citysearch.com (1998-2000). He has been the CD reviewer for the quarterly SONDHEIM REVIEW since 1994. ROBERT’S REVIEWS has nothing whatsoever to do with any of these publications.

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