It's a Farcical Life

Got that? Add just a few more details: Richard (George and Charlotte's lawyer) shows up just in time to escort his sometime-paramour Charlotte away. Why? Charlotte has discovered that George has also been having an affair and has recently impregnated the troupe's ingenue, Eileen. Deserted by his wife, George gets so drunk that he is in no shape to go onstage for the performance that Capra will attend.

Throw in some slamming doors, plus missed connections of the sort that result from characters running in and out of slammed doors, a gun that goes off by mistake, and a character who is bound, gagged, and left in the closet, and what you have is -- well, what you have is a comedy that might be hilarious if the Marx Brothers were starring in it.

Groucho and siblings are, alas, not appearing at the Parker Playhouse, but this doesn't mean that the evening is a bust. Ludwig does write good scenes for actors, and several cast members take advantage of them. In particular Tod Petersen plays Howard as a kind of generic Fifties man come to life. The implausibly earnest Howard takes his calling as a TV weatherman terribly seriously. In what may be the play's one truly inspired scene, Howard, mistaken for Frank Capra by Charlotte, responds to a compliment about his work by "performing" a weather forecast, announcing with a bow and a flourish that "the barometric pressure is falling rapidly." Marvy, as Charlotte, cannot be anything but mystified, and quite convincingly so.

Connie SaLoutos, who plays Rosalind, also gives a strong and charismatic performance. She's more charming than Jason Lee Collins's unassuming Paul, whose performance leaves no impression. Buffy Sedlachek has the thankless task of playing Ethel, a one-note character, but does so with grace. Joe Van Slyke makes a whole person out of Richard, virtually a walk-on role. And Michelle Carpenter gives a sophisticated dumb-blonde performance full of smart acting choices, which makes you realize it's the character and not the actress who is dumb.

Director Curt Wollan (also president of Troupe America, Inc., the show's producing arm) steers his company through this brisk-moving farce, only failing to build hilarity where Ludwig has not allowed it to occur. But even a strong director cannot turn Gavin MacLeod into Philip Bosco, or even into an actor who can compellingly hold our interest on his own. MacLeod's big solo is unfortunately also a drunk scene, a golden opportunity for him to show us either his character's vulnerability or his desperation. Instead we see the intensely hammy side of the actor. That sort of performance doesn't play well here -- or in Buffalo.

Moon over Buffalo.
Written by Ken Ludwig. Directed by Curt Wollan. With Gavin MacLeod, Nancy Marvy, Connie SaLoutos, Buffy Sedlachek, Michelle Carpenter, Tod Petersen, Jason Lee Collins, and Joe Van Slyke. Through January 3, 1999 at the Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8th St, Fort Lauderdale; 954-763-2444.

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