Laughter is often the best medicine, and a healthy dose is now available to anyone who sets foot inside the Grace Lutheran Church, where the Parkside Players’”Moon Over Buffalo” has two performances remaining.
Set on stage and backstage at a theater in the title city in 1953, the story revolves around George and Charlotte Hay, best described as a pair of fading stars. As the play begins, they are performing “Private Lives” and “Cyrano de Bergerac” in repertory, with a combined cast of five wannabe stars.
George, it seems, has been engaging in some extracurricular activities with an attractive ingenue, while his wife is being courted by a big-time lawyer who is eager to marry her.
And in the midst of these romantic scandals, the troupe receives word that Hollywood director Frank Capra is scheduled to arrive in town to catch one of their matinees, eyeing them for leading roles in an upcoming film.
As fate would have it, everything that could go wrong does, with matters made worse by George’s inebriated state just before curtain time.
On a whole, Ken Ludwig’s production, which had a modest Broadway run despite the rare on-stage appearance of Carol Burnett, is funny though predictable — similar in many ways to the more celebrated “Noises Off.” However, in the Parkside Players’ rendition, it is the performances of nearly the entire cast of eight that deserve the attention.
As George, W. Gordon Innes returns for his umpteenth appearance on the Parkside stage, adding another memorable performance to his resume. It’s a role made to order for Innes, who gets to recite many a classic line in his mellifluousvoice, don Cyrano’s time-honored appendage, and play drunk for a good portion of the running time. He eats it all up.
More subdued is Shana Aborn, another Parkside veteran, here entrusted with Burnett’s role of the jilted wife. She and Innes make a believable couple.
Relative newcomer Laura Cetti is most appealing as their daughter, who has broken up with former boyfriend Paul and has taken up with the utterly clueless weatherman, Howard.
As her two love interests, Nick Radu and, in particular, Francesco LaJacono, are invaluable. Radu is Paul, the company manager, utilizing a wide variety of facial expressions and vocal inflections to good effect. LaJacono is obliviousness personified. His reactions are timed to perfection.
Lori Ann Santopetro has several fine moments of her own as the nearly deaf Ethel, Charlotte’s mother, who has an unlimited amount of disdain for George.
Nili Resnick is appropriately attractive as Eileen, the object of George’s affections. Stu Freeman, who has displayed a fine comic flair in previous outings, is stuck in the rather dour role of the lawyer.
Upon entering the church’s auditorium, audiences are greeted with a set —designed by leading man Innes — that features no fewer than five doors, suggesting there will be plenty of action of a farcical nature. And there are laughs aplenty during many impeccably timed and all-too-short scenes.
In fact, under the watchful eyes of director Natalie Jones, there are sight gags galore, including one involving a leap onto a sofa that defies logic, while the cast performs as a well-oiled machine. To borrow another time-worn expression, timing is everything, especially in comedy.
Debbie Erenberg’s costumes provide extra fun, as does the stage combat devised by Ian McDonald.
Filled with cases of mistaken identity, marital infidelity and misunderstandings, “Moon” rises to its peak during a performance of a play within the play as the actors try to cover up when things don’t go exactly as planned. Anyone who has ever set foot on a stage will surely identify with that.
When: Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at 8 p.m.
Where: Grace Lutheran Church, 103-15 Union Tpke. at 71 Rd. in Forest Hills
Tickets: $14; $12 for seniors