Paragon's current production of the Ken Ludwig farce "Moon Over Buffalo" might become as successful as last winter's staging of the author's "Lend Me a Tenor," though that didn't happen on opening weekend. But "Moon," though it might not be as strong a play, it has its share of hilarious moments, along with a comfortable, familiar feel. With a little work, this "Moon" could shine brightly at Paragon's Trifles Restaurant in Crownsville.
Set in 1953, the plot concerns down-on-their-luck middle-aged actors George and Charlotte Hay, who have returned to the stage doing repertory "Cyrano" and "Private Lives" in a run-down Buffalo theater managed by Charlotte's mother, Ethel. The subplot involves the couple's daughter Roz, a former actress who was in love with stage manager Paul but is engaged to weatherman Howard.
Other characters are pregnant ingenue Eileen and Charlotte's suitor, business-manager Richard. The confusion grows more hilarious as the couple's dream of resurrected careers is revived by an impending visit of legendary movie director Frank Capra.
Paragon productions have boasted skilled actors in leading and supporting roles. Again, the supporting actors are strong. Recently seen in "Russian Roulette," Bill Hughes injects subtlety and comedic flair into his portrayal of Paul, struggling to save Charlotte and George's careers and rekindle his romance with Roz.
Last seen in Paragon's "Lend Me a Tenor," Eva Jean Berg, as Ethel, steals every scene she is in and invests her character with strength and maternal tenderness beneath her hip, wisecracking exterior. Berg's hearing-impaired Ethel trades impeccably timed barbs with actor son-in-law George.
Courtney Adams makes a strong Paragon debut as Roz. She is brilliant as she ad libs a series of lines, desperately trying to cue her father onto the stage. When her inebriated dad finally shows up costumed for Cyrano, Adams' Roz is a riot as she struggles to save the doomed "Private Lives."
Another strong debut is that of Michael Speights as the tongue-tied weatherman Howard, revealing a sure sense of timing and an ability to execute perfect pratfalls. Edward McGee is an agreeable presence as Charlotte's suitor Richard, and Sarah Cowie is more than adequate as ingenue Eileen.
But neither Marta Caulfield's Charlotte nor Gerald Riley's George conveyed the warmth or familiarity associated with a long-married couple. Caulfield's coolness restricted her ability to express affection for husband George, and Riley fared no better at establishing believable rapport with Caulfield.
Riley is at his best in overblown recitation of Shakespeare and portraying what Ethel describes as "a walking ham - stick in some cloves." But his volume also was jarring in this intimate theater.
Riley and Caulfield are obviously skilled actors whose performances might improve in the course of the run through Sept. 10. "Moon Over Buffalo" has much to recommend it, and Paragon continues to deserve high marks for bringing non-run-of-the-mill theater to our area.
Paragon's Trifles Restaurant offers full service and choices of appetizer and entree. The $35 price includes dinner with dessert and beverage. On Fridays and Saturdays, dinner is served at 6 p.m., with the show beginning at 8 p.m.; on Sundays, dinner is at 5 p.m. and the show at 7 p.m.