|Lehigh Valley Stage|
At Pa Playhouse's "Moon Over Buffalo", director Beleno gives rein to spirited team of comedic workhorses
Published on Monday, 11 February 2019 18:50 | Written by Ara Barlieb
Newcomer Carrie Beleno carries on what has become a promising tradition of comedic excellence at a theatre far better known for its community-enveloping, foot-stomping musicals.
Last year, estimable director George Miller made silken scenes out of a sow's sore ears with his highly lauded rendering of playwriter Ken Ludwig's straight-to-regional-theatre and blue-haired favorite, 'The Fox on the Fairway'. (Miller's take on this show was like discovering the Fountain of Youth in a sand-trap).
Now, in early 2019, director Beleno successfully stomps moldy grapes into Chardonnay with Ludwig's earlier, "Moon Over Buffalo", best known as Carol Burnett's return to Broadway in the female lead and for D.A. Pennebaker's rich backstage documentary, "Moon Over Broadway".
Both Miller and Beleno calmly ignored what one might have called, in previous years, Pa Playhouse's aversion to risking its actors limbs that consequently drained life out of some of its physical comedy.
Beleno for many years directed non-musicals at a regional high school, and she clearly learned that actors have lots of limbs to spare, directing them accordingly in this production to land where they fall and to hit the ground with courage and gritted teeth. And they accommodated her beautifully.
That's comedy, folks!buffalo
"Moon Over Bufalo" has us trapped backstage with cast and crew of a tired, touring repertory company alternately performing Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac" and Noel Coward's "Private Lives" throughout the culturally parched third tier towns of middle-America, as far removed from the coveted fame and riches of Hollywood and New York as Purgatory from Paradise.
George Hay. company partner and perennial lead actor, chases younger women and, to everyone's misfortune--- especially the woman's---catches one of them. When his wife and leading lady, Charlotte, finds out, she resolves to run off with a prominent show business attorney, thus dissolving the company.
Ah, but then....
Legendary screen star Ronald Colman has fallen down a stairs while filming legendary director Frank Capra's adaptation of 'The Scarlet Pimpernel', and George is told that Mr. Capra will be flying to upstate New York to catch a matinee performance and discuss George's taking over the movie's lead.
Is that enough of a springboard for an evening's entertainment?
No, not really.
But, this Playhouse herd is game to try.
And Ms Beleno blessedly does little to rein in a capable and runner-ish team of horses.
Jerry Brucker, with whom I have worked many times, gives probably his most spirited performance. His character, George, is an actor, and Jerry is naturally called upon to play additional roles-within-the-role.
And to both Jerry and his real life director goes full credit for channeling three of the Marx Brothers with some regularity during Jerry's fluid monologizing and, yes, even while miming with a bracing lack of restraint.
A man of Jerry's advanced age is often confined to some sort of walking stick or sitting device, but he eschews any of that, bounding up and down steps and merrily slamming himself onto whatever surface, soft or unforgiving, is nearest, sometimes even the floor boards, with abandon.
Socially, I never saw Jerry take strong drink; but, having been around actors most of his life, he certainly knows the mannerisms of a drunk and portrays one convincingly.
Beth Sucro does a highly believable and steady job as the long-suffering, unsteady wife, Charlotte, and shows formidable physical grace while leaping over fallen bodies and dragging others off-stage.
Ted,Williams plays wonderfully the lascivious lawyer whose hairpiece does most of his talking. But, Ted, whose trademark is his Jack Benny-like delayed responses to cues, stirs strong laughter at a great many, otherwise thankless lines.
Juliana Wardle, Trish Kane Steele, Jessica Mulligan, Tommy Wright, and Sebastian Paff add far more to the show than what was written for them on the page, culling outbursts of laughter at potentially tepid moments and keeping the show's pace brisk even when its heavy contrivances are threatening to collapse upon it.