By TERRENCE GIRARD
You want to take Mom to a show for her big day … but musicals make you cringe, while you both enjoy a raucous comedy? MOON OVER BUFFALO at Surfside Playhouse in Cocoa Beach may fit the bill perfectly.
Ken Ludwig has become today what Neil Simon was a generation (or two) ago, and what Kaufman and Hart were in the first half of the last century: The go-to comedy playwright that theatre-makers can count on to pull in audiences and leave patrons smiling at the end of the night.
Surfside Players’ current production of Ludwig’s MOON OVER BUFFALO proves that his plays aren’t foolproof, however: It takes a skilled cast and snappy direction to yield the laughs even when his scripts lay the groundwork. Luckily, Surfside‘s company is more than up to the task.
I won’t even try to recount the plot—does it matter? We’re behind the scenes at a rundown theatre in the 1950s, where a ragtag touring repertory company is struggling to stay afloat. There are unresolved romances, backstage dalliances, mistaken identities, broken hearts, matinee mix-ups, slamming doors and (maybe) Frank Capra.
Dusty Ray leads the troupe hilariously as its nearly washed up leader, displaying verbal acuity and physical comedy in equal measure, with a second act drunk scene that’s terrific. He evokes the great British actor Alistair Sim, and is matched in comic chops by Adonna Niosi as his put-upon wife and acting partner, who’s nearing the end of her rope and tempted to leave the whole mess behind with their lawyer (solid work from David Hill.)
Their daughter, played breezily by Jessica Foix at the center of the storm, has fled the craziness of the thea-tuh for a nice, normal life with her bland TV weatherman fiancé (funny stuff from Edward Johnson, whose vapid end-of-broadcast smile is a recurring comic gem.) Leslie McGinty has a fine turn as their seen-it-all matriarch, who’s not half as dotty as she’d have you believe. And Matt Davis nicely conveys the lone voice of reason (but secretly smitten) company manager. Katie McCall’s the pretty company member with a secret of her own.
It’s frantic and loud and desperate as the situation warrants, but director Bryan Bergeron keeps the proceedings controlled and the storytelling clear.Ultimately, the only true measure of funny is, did you laugh? I did, audibly, as is not really my wont, quite a few times, and the audience around me did pretty much nonstop. The show runs for three more performances this weekend … so why not take Mom for a laugh?
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Moon Over Buffalo” runs through Sunday at Surfside Playhouse, 301 Ramp Road (5th Street South), Cocoa Beach, FL. It performs 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25 general and $22 seniors, military and students. There is a $1.75 service fee per ticket. Call 321-783-3127, visit SurfsidePlayers.com or click on their ad.
Photo above by director Bryan Bergeron