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Big laughs return in 'Moon Over Buffalo'

When "Moon Over Buffalo" opens at Town Theatre Friday, it will be like an anniversary party.

Allan Fulmer, Jr. and Kathy Hartzog reprise their roles as George and Charlotte Hay in the production first staged at the theater in 1998.

Director Allison McNeely also returns. "Moon Over Buffalo," a comedy that demands precise timing, was the first show she directed at Town.

So what's new?

"The interpretation of the characters (is) different," McNeely said. "And the set is very different. Of course, everything else would be the same, the script and the timing."

McNeely, a drama teacher at Spring Valley High School, has spent the past several weeks on an eat-in-the-car pace. There are no breaks in the show, either.

"I spend my afternoons rehearsing with my students at Spring Valley, and then I grab a bite to eat and then go rehearse," she said. "There's no down time."

McNeely reacquainted herself with "Moon Over Buffalo" by watching video of previous shows. New actors in the production looked at tape, too, but there was no sound for them. She only wanted them to see the blocking, the marks and placement on the stage.

"I didn't want them to try to emulate what the previous actors had done," she said.

A lot of "Moon Over Buffalo's" comedic approach relies on actors being in the right spots. It also demands a stage rapport that goes beyond reciting lines. McNeely said Fulmer and Hartzog will be better in their roles because of their friendship since the original production.

"I honestly think they nailed it the first time, and they're nailing it again," McNeely said. "Both have become better actors. The characterizations, because of their personal experience, have added a richness to the performance.

"The relationship on stage is more poignant because of their friendship over the last 10 years. They were amazing 10 years ago, and they're amazing today."

As soon rehearsal begins, the laughter begins anew, McNeely said. She said the laughing will carry through the show's run.

"If you want to have two hours of laughing your head off, this is the way to do it," she said.

Town Theatre is at 1012 Sumter St. The show runs through Nov. 21. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with 3 p.m. shows Nov. 8 and Nov. 15. $11 to $16; (803) 799-2510

OTHER ARTS EVENTS

Workshop Theatre opens "Same Time, Next Year" Friday. The production will get inside the love affair of a married couple. But the two are not married to each other. Yet their trysts, which take place over a 25-year period, strengthen the bond with their spouses. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Wednesday to Nov. 14 and Nov. 18 to 21; and 3 p.m. Nov. 15. The theater is at 1136 Bull St. $8 to $18; (803) 799-6551

Read more about the play Friday in Weekend.

The USC Dance Company will perform "American at Heart," a production of works by American choreographers, Friday and Saturday at the Koger Center.

A highlight of the performance: "If At First We Dance," which was choreographed by the company's Thaddeus Davis. It will feature Kyra Strasberg, the company's artist-in-residence, who will dance for the first time since retiring from the Boston Ballet in 2000. The piece will be accompanied by violin and piano.

"Serenade" and "Bach Cello Suites" is also on the program.

Showtime is 7:30 p.m. both nights. The Koger Center is at 1051 Greene St. $10 to $16; (803) 777-5112

Anastasia Chernoff, an artist and sculptor, will debut a show of works Thursday. "ex true sions" will run through Dec. 5 at the Sheraton Columbia Downtown Hotel. The show will feature sculpture, mixed media and paintings, which were created while Chernoff was in a hypnotic state, according to a press release.

The opening reception is from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday. The hotel is at 1400 Main St.

The Columbia Museum of Art's Baker & Baker Art of Music Series continues at 7 p.m. Tuesday with High Lonesome Bluegrass Band. The museum is at Main and Hampton streets. $8 and $10; (803) 799-2810

Nikolai Oskolkov's "Laughter in the Sky" opens at Portfolio Gallery Friday. The show will feature paintings and drawings in various mediums. For the show's opening, Oskolkov will perform Russian and American folk music on the balalaika, a three-stringed Russian folk instrument. He'll also perform the blues, boogie and Southern rock on the piano. The opening reception is from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday. The gallery is at 2007 Devine St. (803) 256-2434.

The second installment of "The State Art Collection: Contemporary Conversations," a traveling exhibition of works by South Carolina artists, will open at 701 Center for Contemporary Art Thursday. The exhibition features works by South Carolina artists. Within the pieces, art viewers will be engaged by a dialogue of concerns and feelings of these state artists. It will be art as a history lesson.

701 CCA is at 701 Whaley. Gallery hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Friday; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Information: 701cca.org.

- Otis R. Taylor Jr.

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