Ken Ludwig's "Moon Over Buffalo" takes its share of shots at the titular western New York city. Like the city's underachieving sports teams, however, those shots rank low on the list of the funniest things about the Auburn Players Community Theatre's production of Ludwig's farce.
Directed by Robert Frame, the show's ensemble is possessed with madcap comedic energy and melds with the kind of chemistry a cast achieves only after performing together as long as "Buffalo's" central characters have. Almost every punchline and pratfall lands as potently as Ludwig could have hoped when he wrote "Moon Over Buffalo" in 1995 — and as Carol Burnett could have imagined when she ended her 30-year Broadway hiatus to star in it that year.
Bill Daugherty is George Hay and Ann Fitzgerald is his wife, Charlotte, who together perform a double-bill of "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Private Lives" on the downslope of a long, shared acting career in 1953. As their daughter, Alicia Frame's Rosalind, visits with her fiance, Scott Duell's Howard, the Hays' marriage all but collapses when Charlotte discovers George cheated on her with Christine Zavakos' Eileen, which pushes Charlotte further into the arms of Dale Fennessy's suitor Richard.
A lifeline comes, however, with the news that legendary director Frank Capra is en route to Buffalo to see the Hays' next show because he's considering them for his next film. But getting the Hays harmoniously on stage together again will require the help of Michael Antico's Paul, the Hays' stage manager who was engaged to Rosalind before her self-imposed exile from theater, as well as Stephanie Figer's Ethel, Charlotte's hard-of-hearing mother and the Hays' one-woman costume shop.
Bombastic and sober for the first half of the show, bombastic and drunk for the second, Daugherty won't let you take your eyes off him. By the time he tries taking the stage as Cyrano drunk, his 6-inch nose prosthetic flopping from nose to chin and back, he's commanding laughs with just the faintest of stumbles and slurs. He and Fitzgerald are delightful sparring partners, too, and she delivers on every sour ounce of Ludwig's most sardonic lines in the show.
Alicia, affable but short in patience for the Hays' backstage madness, is a grounding presence at first. But as her character is helplessly sucked back into her old life, she introduces just enough tempered enthusiasm to make the transition believable, and fun to follow. Another important part of that transition is her screwball chemistry with Antico, who's also a sturdy piece of the show's most frenzied, door-slamming scenes.
Supporting cast members Duell, Fennessy, Figer and Zavakos, and the Players' accomplished crew, are just as instrumental to this production of Ludwig's ode to mid-20th century show business. On rare occasion, the cast brings too much energy to it and trips over a line. But with all the passion and chemistry on the Cayuga Community College stage, they do so just as amusingly as they trip, physically, over everything else.