The Baltimore Sun

Photos by Bud Johnsonspecial to the sun Colonial Players subscribes to the showbiz adage "leave 'em laughing" as the company on East Street closes this season with Moon Over Buffalo.

Tony-award winner Ken Ludwig set his comedy in 1953 in Buffalo's Erlanger Theatre, where nearly-washed-up actors George and Charlotte Hay are performing an alternating schedule of Cyrano de Bergerac and Private Lives.

The couple learns that legendary film director Frank Capra is coming to Buffalo to catch their performance and perhaps offer George a job. George may miss his last chance at stardom because he has a drinking problem. He also has problems with his wife, who is suspicious of his relationship with an ing?nue, and with Ethel, his mother-in-law and theater manager.

The plot is further complicated by the arrival of the Hays' daughter, Rosalind, who quit acting for a normal life with her TV-weatherman boyfriend. Although this production's frequent slamming of doors and frantic entrances and exits borders on tedious, the skilled direction by Edd Miller is so well-paced and his cast so talented that they manage to pull off this comedy in style.

Colonial's production is blessed with the presence of Duncan Hood in the lead role of George Hay. He gets everything right, moving with loose-jointed athleticism, taking pratfalls like a pro, appearing to dissolve into a limp heap, and rising to hysterical heights in his drunken scene.

Going from rational to smashed as he drinks coffee that has been laced with bourbon, Hood had me laughing until I cried.

Hood's wife, Dianne, plays his stage wife with an easy familiarity, and she too knows how to deliver a comic line with great timing.

Charlotte's hearing-impaired mother, Ethel, is played by Beth Whaley, who establishes great rapport with the cast and shines in scenes with Rosalind (Laura Gayvert). Her hostility toward her son-in-law grows from naturally funny into a sidesplitting battle that she manages to win despite her hearing problem.

Gayvert is a gem as Rosalind, especially when the former actress is forced to make a return engagement, frantically ad-libbing in a scene awaiting her drunken father. He finally arrives costumed as Cyrano in Private Lives.

Jason Vaughan makes his Colonial Players debut as Rosalind's beau, Howard, displaying strong comedic skills as he acts awestruck by her famous actor parents. Lawrence Griffin plays Rosalind's former lover Paul, who serves as stage manager at the Erlanger Theatre. Griffin is adept when acting in the play within a play with Gayvert's Rosalind, whom he still cares for. Josette Dubois plays Eileen, the ing?nue who has been involved with George and is now facing a possible pregnancy.

Rick Hall, who was seen as Stedman Harder in A Moon for the Misbegotten, returns now to display an adroit comic sense as Charlotte's perennial suitor and business manager, Richard Maynard, who is confused by the world of show business.

Silly slapstick, yes, but this show is such fun that it is almost guaranteed to provide multiple laughs.

Moon Over Buffalo runs at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. Sundays through May 26 with a Sunday evening performance May 20. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. 410-268-7373.

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