Actor, Growing In Roles, Ready To Take The Spotlight

Buchanan Has The Tools To Shine Brightly Onstage

September 18, 1991|By Tim Weinfeld | Tim Weinfeld,Contributing theater critic

He demonstrates a growing sense of security and command of his roles. His bell-clear voice and flexible physical attributes make him a natural for comedy.

County audiences will remember actor Roger Buchanan's excellent work as Shem in the recent Havilah-Hayes Theatre production of "Two By Two" and as Alfred Doolittle in "My Fair Lady," last year's September Song offering.

Now the Westminster resident is exporting his considerable talents to Baltimore, where he is performing through September at The Spotlighters Theatre in a production of Larry Shue's farce, "The Nerd."

The talented amateur continues to hold a "day job" as a mental health worker at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Baltimore, whilenurturing an interest in performing. His schedule is a grueling one,but Buchanan says the satisfaction gained makes up for the long hours and hard work.

His performance in "The Nerd" is clearly hard work. Buchanan plays Warnock Waldgrave, the employer of the lead character, who, in a two-hour performance, is called upon to move from serenity to apoplexy, to be doused with water while playing an inane game of "shoes and socks" while wearing a paper bag on his head. And, finally, to be the inadvertent target of some flying cottage cheese.

Buchanan's performance, as in the past, is most engaging and interesting.

But his good work in the role is limited by by the director's general misreading of Shue's play.

In "The Nerd," Shue's brand of farce falls into the category of droll and whimsical, and is best served by a kind and gentle approach to character and content. This production is too broad, loud and heavy-handed to allow the humor and intent to shine through.

This too-vigorous approach all but obscured the exposition of the piece. Thus, when the lovers are cleverly united at the play's conclusion, the audience is not quite sure what it was that had kept them apart in the first place.

Add to that the not-believable romantic attachment of the "lovers," and the entire framing device of the play disappears.

What is left is a rather unfocused, "Three Stooges" approach to humor in a play that calls for a muchmore restrained and refined handling.

Despite these weaknesses inthe production, Buchanan continues to show a growing security and command. His careful listening to the other players and reactive involvement were exemplary.

Buchanan's growing talents have been honed along a winding road that has led him from Carroll to Florida, Virginia, New York and across the country to California.

As a student at North Carroll High 20 years ago, the former Manchester resident played Doolittle in a school production.

He went on to play the lead role of Mr. Antrobus in Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," while attending Miami-Dade Community College.

After attending James Madison University, Buchanan lived and worked in New York City, where he took actingclasses.

In California, among many other activities, he did public relations for a production of "Sweeney Todd."

Now, in "The Nerd," theater-goers will be captivated by the fine work of Buchanan.

In the play, Vietnam vet Willum Cubbert, who knows little about "nerd"Rick Steadman except that Rick saved his life during the war, must figure out how to repay this walking disaster area before he totally dismantles his life.

Theater-goers unfamiliar with Shue's work willenjoy his cunning and preposterous sense of humor. Also the author of the highly acclaimed "The Foreigner" and "Wenceslas Square," Shue was killed in an airplane crash six years ago this month.

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