– BUFFALO THEATRE ENSEMBLE
By Ken Ludwig
Director: Kurt Naebigt
Funny Facial Expressions Flood Farce
The first leading lady you see on center stage is the spectacular four-seater Victorian couch, and the rest of the well done and very workable set tells you a lot about the action to follow with its abundant doors, staircase, and entrances/exits. Farce is considered an ancient theatrical tradition, and like Shakespeare’s writings, “Leading Ladies” uses mistaken identities, letter mix-ups and abundant double entendres. The exceptionally creative playwright, Ken Ludwig, overlays Shakespearean lines in a farce with some extremely funny lines and a three-ring circus of facial expressions!
Two down and out Shakespearean actors who cannot even successfully entertain at the local Shrewsbury, PA Moose Lodge, decide to impersonate the long lost relatives of a dying millionaire in order to claim an inheritance. The mayhem begins after they learn that the entitled nephews are really nieces. Not to be deterred Leo (Bryan Burke) convinces Jack (Robert Jordan Bailey) that they are actors and can pull off the stunt…after all…men originally performed all of the Bard’s roles.
“Leading Ladies” begins slightly weighed down by some overacting of Burke, but he settles in and gives an excellent performance as the suave actor Leo and as one of the leading ladies, Maxine. The outstanding Christina Gorman as Margaret suffers a similar malady at first with her over-the-top high pitch, and then an inconsistent change of character with a deeper but beautifully mellow voice.
Some of the manic screaming was relieved when Margaret and Leo so eloquently spoke lines from Shakespeare. It made me immediately long to hear the two actors in another serious drama. Bailey, as the straight man, stays in character the whole play, and is an unbelievable master of innumerable puppy dog expressions. Other cast members, Melody Jeffries, Doug Schuetz Grant Schumacher, Gary Simmers and Loretta Hauser support the main characters extremely well.
Most costume designs worked fine, except for the initial Shakespearean outfits of male to female roles that were so outrageous and sloppy to become unbelievable rather than funny. A few trite lines and physical gestures could have been deleted, but most of the dialogue brought generous laughs and some humor proved simply hilarious.
The beauty of “Leading Ladies” lies in its complex plot, superb dialogue, creative surprises and very funny lines. The finale, especially, had the audience in hysterics with a tour de force of facial expressions, speed and blocking. If you enjoy farces, “Leading Ladies” offers an extremely delightful comedic evening of theater. See it soon since the run is short!
Date Reviewed: September 6, 2013
Performances: Sept 6 – Sept 22, 2013. Running time: 2 hour 20 minutes including intermission. Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets – $28 to $36 with $2 discounts for students, and seniors age 60 and over. MAC Ticket Office at (630) 942-4000.