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The Melville Boys might be set in a fishing cabin while Private Lives is set on the French Riviera, but both tinge humor with melancholy 

Two shows, seemingly worlds apart, both deliver on the classic situation of two men and two women and what happens next.  Since Noel Coward’s outwardly sophisticated PRIVATE LIVES has been well previewed by Buffalo Rising’s Daniel Lendzian, I urge you to read that preview.  

PRIVATE LIVES is what some call a “comedy of manners” or I call a “drawing room comedy.”  These plays usually feature witty, fast-paced dialogue between wealthy, well-mannered (usually British) characters who wear beautiful, well-tailored clothing, smoke cigarettes from their monogrammed cigarette cases, drink cocktails like fish, and call each other “dahling.”  But despite all the humor, and it is funny, there’s an air of melancholy as the characters desperately seek human connection.

It’s at the Irish Classical Theater through the end of the month, Sunday, June 30th (see full listing below).

Meanwhile, at Desiderio’s Dinner Theater (within Bobby J’s Italian American Grille), THE MELVILLE BOYS, well-directed by Jack Hunter, introduces us to two brothers who don’t say “dahling” but rather work in a factory, wear blue jeans and flannel shirts, and are spending the weekend in their aunt and uncle’s fishing cabin.  The younger brother, Owen Melville (played by Trevor Dugan), does drink like a fish, although only beer.  His older brother, Lee Melville (Marc Ruffino), is the more sober one, in every sense of the word.  

The two brothers are paired nicely with two local sisters: the younger, high-energy, devil-may-care Loretta (Alyssa Grace Adams) and Mary (Marie Costa), Loretta’s older and, in every sense of the word, more sober sister. For both families, the older siblings act in loco parentis, often disagreeing with the younger ones’ poor choices, but the arguments are tinged with love.

Unlike the well-heeled characters in PRIVATE LIVES, who live in an illusion oblivious to the 1930s worldwide depression and impending war, the four working-class folks in THE MELVILLE BOYS have their own illusions but demonstrate some level of heroism by admitting a glimpse of reality and moving on as best they can. 

THE MELVILLE BOYS is billed as a “comedy/drama.”  Now, in college I was given the simple rubric that if someone dies, it’s a drama; if there’s a wedding, it’s a comedy.”  Well, there are no weddings in THE MELVILLE BOYS.  In fact, one wedding might be called off.  But no one dies, although there is a concern over suicide and did I mention that one of the characters has cancer?  If all this sounds depressing, it is not. 

THE MELVILLE BOYS | Marie Costa – Photo courtesy Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre

And you expect that “life tempered with humor” when it’s by a Desiderio favorite, Norm Foster, whom I call the Canadian Neil Simon.  Foster has been the most-produced playwright in Canada every year for the past twenty years, with an average of one hundred and fifty productions annually.  So just as you are with Neil Simon, you’re in very capable hands with Norm Foster aided by director Jack Hunter who brought out fine performances by all four actors.  

There are several nice twists in the play.  At one point, younger brother Owen, full of alcohol in the morning after the night before, actually has a moment of clarity about his unreliable and careless ways.  And Mary, after her own sleepless night, is ready to turn in a new direction.  In fact, all four characters have insights about their situations.  

The set (designed by director Jack Hunter) is deliciously full of tchotchkes, refrigerator magnets, a deer head mounted on the wall, a gun rack, and a clever portrayal of a porch with a very nice vista painted by Margo Davis, all well lit by Len Mendez.  The food is always very good so this is a strong choice for a night out.

THE BASICS:  THE MELVILLE BOYS, a “comedy/drama” play by Norm Foster, directed by Jack Hunter, produced by Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre, starring Marc Ruffino, Trevor Dugan, Marie Costa, and Alyssa Grace Adams. The show is up through June 23. Thursday and Saturday evenings, June 20 and 22, arrive at 6:00 for dinner with the show at 7:30, and for the final Sunday matinee arrive at 1:00 for lunch with a show at 2:30.  Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre at Bobby J’s, 204 Comoo Park Blvd. Cheektowaga NY 14227 (716)395-3207 mybobbyjs.com

RUNTIME: 1 hour, 40 minutes with one intermission

Please take a moment to read the new Herd of Buffalo rating system below. 

You have two weeks to see PRIVATE LIVES, the play by Noel Coward, directed by Chris Kelly, presented by The Irish Classical Theatre Company, starring Anna Fernandez, Ben Michael Moran, Maria Pedro, Darryl Semira, and Jenn Stafford. 6/7 – 6/30, Thu – Sat 7:30, Sat 3:00, Sun 2:00. Irish Classical Theatre Company 625 Main Street Buffalo NY 14203 (716) 853-1380 irishclassical.com/private-lives/

Pay-What-You-Will Performances: Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm, June 22, 29  (Must be purchased in-person at the Box Office on the performance day. Seating subject to availability.)  Open Captioned Performance: Thursday, June 27, 2024 at 7:30 pm

RUNTIME: 2 hours with one intermission

Did you read the preview?

I’ll simply say that it does deliver on the promise made when Lendzian quotes PRIVATE LIVES dramaturg Matt Refermat: “I do believe that this is the kind of play that will warm the hearts of theatergoers who make theater a regular part of their diet. But I also truly believe that if this is a person’s first time seeing a classic comedy, this could be a gateway drug to it.”

The experienced cast is solid, with Sibyl played by Anna Fernandez, whom we usually see in musicals, here in her Irish Classical debut in a straight play.  Darryl Semira plays Victor in his Irish Classical debut.  While in some productions, Sibyl is just plain both dull and annoying, and Victor is a pompous “veddy British” pompous ass, that’s not the case in director Chris Kelly’s vision.  It’s quite clear that Amanda and Elyot’s decision to go off the rails together is entirely on them.  

Private Lives by Noël Coward – Onstage at ICTC through June 30 | Photo by Sarah Potter

Amanda is played by Jenn Stafford who can be both decisive and vulnerable, and Elyot is Irish regular Ben Michael Moran, who just won the “Outstanding Actor in a Play” Artie Award for his role in THE PRICE at Irish Classical.  

Theater in the round presents many challenges, with one being that actors must constantly move so that they don’t have their backs to portions of the audience for very long.  But their movements have to appear natural and spontaneous.  Moran is the most experienced at that having (before THE PRICE) recently been on the same stage in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST as well as WAITING FOR GODOT.  

But wait, there’s more.  And that’s the performance of Maria Pedro, recently the star of the musical BEAUTIFUL, THE CAROL KING STORY at MusicalFare, who, with the help of director Chris Kelly, takes the minor role of maid and turns it into a wonderful thing, singing at the top of her lungs one moment, swearing in French the next.

The costumes by Vivian Del Bello (who just won an Artie Award for “Outstanding Costume Design” for THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST at Irish Classical) are quite exceptional.  At one of the “talk backs” I asked about them.  Maria Pedro’s opening floor-length gown is the same one worn by Aleks Malejs in ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE and it’s still just as stunning.  But all the clothes worn by all the actors are quite a delight.  If you like to see good looking rich people behaving badly while wearing beautiful clothing, and from the success of television series SUCCESSION or DOWNTON ABBEY it seems people do, then you’ll love PRIVATE LIVES.

HERD OF BUFFALO RATING SYSTEM

FIVE BUFFALO: Universal Appeal! This production is pure theatrical magic – a crowd-pleaser. No prior theatre experience is necessary. Whether it’s a laugh-out-loud comedy or a heartwarming drama, this show offers an unforgettable shared experience. You’ll laugh, be touched, or amazed (depending on the genre). Grab your tickets before they disappear!

FOUR BUFFALO: Highly Recommended! This production delivers high-quality entertainment. It may have a strong script and stellar performances. While it might not be for everyone, theatre fans and those interested in the style, themes, or genre are sure to be delighted. Gather your friends or grab a date – you won’t be disappointed you went!

THREE BUFFALO: A Solid Night Out! This is a solid production and enjoyable evening at the theater. It’s a strong choice for a night out. Roam over and check it out if you can!

TWO BUFFALO: Intriguing! This production may not appeal to all tastes. However, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to blaze your own theatrical trail, this production offers a unique experience. While it may have some minor imperfections, if the genre, themes, and style align with your interests you should defintely attend!

ONE BUFFALO: If you love Theatre…Although it won’t resonate with everyone, it offers a challenging and stimulating experience. Traditional theatergoers might find it difficult to follow. While it will undoubtedly spark conversation, consider the genre, themes, and style before attending.

The post The Melville Boys might be set in a fishing cabin while Private Lives is set on the French Riviera, but both tinge humor with melancholy  appeared first on Buffalo Rising.

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