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Relax and enjoy. For playwright, director, and cast, it’s not the first time round the back nine in THE LADIES FOURSOME at Desiderio’s

THE BASICS:  THE LADIES FOURSOME, a comedy by Norm Foster presented by Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre, directed by Jay Desiderio, starring Lisa Hinca, Lisa Ludwig, Maureen Porter, and Susan Toomey, is up for a while, running through January 20, 2019. For evening shows arrive at 6:00 p.m. for dinner, the show is at 7:30; for matinees arrive at 1, and show is at 2:30. The theater is in the back of Bobby J’s Italian American Grille, 204 Como Park Blvd. (off Union) in Cheektowaga (395-3207). Runtime: 2 hours with one 10-minute intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: The day after the funeral for a dear friend, Catherine, three middle-aged women gather for their weekly round of golf, but this time they’re playing in honor and in memory of their recently deceased playing partner. At the golf course, the foursome is completed by another woman, Dory, whom they’d never met before, but who proves to also be an old friend and confidant of the deceased. The play is presented in 18 short segments, and as the ladies tee up for each hole, the conversations are freewheeling on the topics of careers, children, marriage, sex, secrets, dreams realized, and ambitions thwarted.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: In Noel Coward’s farce PRESENT LAUGHTER, the famous actor “Garry Essendine” has rashly agreed to critique a work by aspiring (and annoying) playwright “Roland Maule.” Perhaps to get rid of him, perhaps presaging the “10,000 hours to mastery” advice of Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers, or perhaps mirroring playwright Noel Coward’s own experience, I recall that Essendine tells the young man to go off and write 50 plays and then come back for advice.

THE LADIES FOURSOME is the 51st of Norm Foster’s over 60 plays to date.  It’s an all-woman version of his 18th play, THE FOURSOME (1998). Why all these numbers? Just to let you know that when you go to Desiderio’s, you are in the good hands of someone who knows how to write plays. The only “awkward” moments are when the on-stage dialog hits a little too close to home. And looking around at the audience, mostly Baby Boomers who have all dealt with careers, children, marriage, sex, secrets, dreams realized, and ambitions thwarted, there were many moments of identification.

What struck me right away was how masterfully this playwright sets up the scenes and delivers the punchlines and then moves the ladies on to their next golf shots. As Foster has said: “I find it far more satisfying if I can make an audience laugh and feel a little heartache within the same story… it’s the stories that touch an audience’s heart as well as its funny bone that are the most rewarding.”

In one of the finest scenes, there is absolutely no dialog whatsoever, but you know exactly what each of the foursome is thinking.

The direction by Jay Desiderio is nuanced to allow each of the four to be a complete person and not just two-dimensional cartoon fodder. In fact, in one of the finest scenes, there is absolutely no dialog whatsoever, but you know exactly what each of the foursome is thinking. A little insider info: When you go you’ll notice 18 golf hole flags randomly hanging from around the seating area. They are there to give the four actors something to aim at when they tee up for each scene, so that the action is realistic.

Best of all, there are no “weak sisters” in this play. All four actors are at the top of their game. Susan Toomey is the angry Margot, Lisa Hinca is the slightly out-of-it Tate, Lisa Ludwig plays the “ringleader” Connie, and Maureen Anne Porter seems so natural as Dory.

Lead image courtesy Jay Desiderio

UP NEXT: Franco Corso’s special holiday show MY ITALIAN CHRISTMAS will take the stage, Thursday to Sunday, December 13 to 16 as THE LADIES FOURSOME takes a mid-December break. Italian tenor Franco Corso’s inspirations are Enrico Caruso, Andrea Bocelli, Luciano Pavorotti, Mario Lanza, and popular today, Josh Groban. Dinners Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are at 6:00 p.m. and the shows are at 7:30, with a special Sunday matinee dinner at 1:00 and show at 2:30.

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For over 20 years, as a producer and program host on WNED Classical (94.5 FM), he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?" These days Peter can be heard regularly on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5.

On “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?" As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take."

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he was an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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