Ken Ludwig’s stalwart farce kicks off return to the stage for Colorado Springs company
A full house was enthralled at the Funky Little Theatre Company’s return to the stage, presenting the popular Ken Ludwig farce, Moon Over Buffalo. Staged with precision and stacked with talent that delivered pinpoint timing, Funky’s take on this classic is a not-to-be-missed night of comic therapy in Colorado Springs.
Here’s the setup: it’s 1952 and has-been Broadway stars George and Charlotte Hay have taken their run-down touring company to Buffalo, New York offering Cyrano de Bergerac and Private Lives in repertory. Poised for their big break at the prospect of a Hollywood producer in the matinee’s audience, the duo unravels at George’s dalliance with the company’s ingénue Eileen, prompting Charlotte to finally succumb to their lawyer’s advances. Add in a handsome actor, the harlot, a determined but distant daughter, and grumbling mother-in-law and the stage shenanigans spin into fast-packed hilarity.
Funky’s troupe is perfectly cast. As the patriarch George, Josh Neal taps his voice and physicality in nimbly navigating the stage the likes of Jackie Gleason from the old Honeymooners sitcom (or think Kevin James from Queen of Kings, if you are of a younger demographic!)
Distraught at his waning stardom and failing marriage, George spends most of Act Two playing the drunk — and does it masterfully. He slurs and stumbles around the small set, slamming doors and dodging fists as the plot thickens and hijinks heighten the antics. Actors zip off stage left and right, ducking behind doors and into closets with seamlessly smooth choreography as each executes their respective deceptions.
Ashley Crockett portrays Charlotte with the flagrant ego of a real Broadway star of yesteryear. With expressive eyes and an engaging physical flow on stage, she is Charlotte in action, word and thought, never stepping out of character.
Comic timing is essential to the success of a farce, and few do it better than Karen Anderson as Ethel, the hearing-challenged, scornful mother-in-law begrudgingly meandering the stage with her laundry basket delivering snarky quips. While Ethel’s lines are few, they are zingers delivered in muted monotone igniting the audience in raucous laughter.
Rosalind, the Hay’s practical daughter is stiff on stage at first, but it seems Alicia Franks’ portrayal underpins her character’s backstory. As the plot unfolds, she gets caught-up in the antics with her deadpan fiancé, TV weatherman Howard, played adeptly by Benjamin Rosko who is central to the Hay’s ill-fated maneuverings in a case of mistaken identity.
Nate Woodroof is Paul, Rosalind’s jilted beau who masters the command and tempo of his character as both part of the struggling theatrical company and George’s unwilling handler. Seemingly spineless, his character evolves into a backbone force that further spins the play’s outcome.
Period costumes, hairstyles and décor fill the small stage, however, this production hinges on the larger-than-life actors synergized by pace, agility and clever characterizations. There is no need to upstage the storyline with needless staging.
Classic faire to the genre of farce is the play’s “cheesecake,” well-acted by Krysten Whearly as Eileen, George’s shameless tryst, strutting the stage in her flirty red dress and sharing some unexpected slapstick moves of her own. Whearly enchants as she captures the charisma and bawdy confidence of Eileen.
A local English teacher by day, John Longo clearly enjoys his supporting role as Richard, Charlotte’s backup love interest. He nails his role as a slippery lawyer, convincingly cajoling his clients while conniving in his own best interests.
Long-time Funky director Chris Medina delivers a fun comedic evening with a well-executed version of this entertaining farce. Now in its sixth season at its third venue, Funky’s only disappointment was its hard fold-up chairs in the auditorium of the old West Middle School. The comedy is delightfully old school, in an old school — just bring a cushion and enjoy the shenanigans!