In "Moon Over Buffalo," onstage at Sanford's Princess Theater, playwright Ken Ludwig has devised a farce about the messed-up personal lives of a second-rate acting troupe, which struggles to put on a play that goes horribly wrong.
If this sounds to like Michael Frayn's "Noises Off," yes, there are certainly similarities.
The key differences: Frayn created sharp characters and funny payoffs to his daffy scenarios. Ludwig, alas, did not.
This lack of compelling source material makes uphill work for the Princess Players, relative newcomers on the Central Florida theater scene. And though with this show the troupe can't ever reach the comedy mountaintop, they do find some winning moments on the trek.
When "Moon Over Buffalo" premiered on Broadway in 1995, most buzz was about the return of Carol Burnett to the Broadway stage for the first time in 30 years. Critics loved her — but not the show, which ran less than a year.
In "Moon Over Buffalo," George Hay is a showbiz ham, touring small theaters with staples such as "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Private Lives." Joining him is his wife and acting partner, Charlotte (Burnett's role on Broadway), who dreams of a career in the movies.
Daughter Rosalind used to act with her parents and date company manager Paul, but she has fled for a "normal" life and become engaged to a dopey weatherman, Howard. She was replaced in the company by Eileen, who has a thing for George. Rounding out the players are Ethel, Charlotte's hard-of-hearing mother, and Richard, the Hays' lawyer who's smitten with Charlotte.
Director Shelley Ackman has a handle on his characters' rapid entrances and exits through multiple doors — a staple of farce — but has a less sure hand with the characters' relationships.
It's hard to tell if George and Charlotte have any true love for each other or not. As George, Larry Stallings seems more bemused by his wife than anything; Denise Glickler's Charlotte displays bubbly enthusiasm but not much acid under the froth.
The supporting players fare better — Drew Storie as increasingly frantic Paul, Anthony James as bright-eyed twit Howard, brilliantly costumed in a too-large bow tie.
Kagey Good is an old pro with character parts such as deaf Ethel, though she's not given much to do. Marcie Schwalm (Rosalind) has to play it relatively straight, but she gets a chance to shine as she singlehandedly tries to stage the opening scene of "Private Lives."
Ludwig had Broadway success with "Lend Me a Tenor" and "Crazy for You," but he's outrageously sloppy here. To wit, a key plot point requires the audience to believe a veteran actress who regularly reads "Variety" wouldn't know anything about famed director Frank Capra.
Ridiculous — and not in a good, farcical way.
'Moon Over Buffalo'
• When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 12
• Where: Princess Theater, 115 W. First St., Sanford
• Tickets: $15; $12 seniors or students
• Call: 321-578-1463
• Online: celerysoupsanford.comCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times