The Buffalo-born Over the Tavern was such a smash for three seasons at Buffalo's Studio Arena Theatre, artistic director Gavin Cameron-Webb commissioned playwright Tom Dudzick to write a sequel, opening Dec. 4.
The world premiere of Over the Tavern Part II: King O' the Moon began previews Nov. 29 and continues to Jan. 3, 1999 at the Studio Arena. The comedy-drama follows the further exploits of the Polish-Catholic Pazinski family of Buffalo, a clan first embraced in 1994 in Buffalo and subsequently by regional theatres throughout the country. Regional companies are keeping their ears open, hoping laughter strikes twice.
Dudzick's Over the Tavern, about family ties, coming of age and Catholic upbringing in Buffalo in the late 1950s, was one of the major regional hits of the decade, playing Sacramento, Milwaukee, suburban Detroit and beyond. It returned twice to the Studio Arena.
In the sequel, the first play's wisecracking kid protagonist, Rudy, is now grown up in the late 1960s, and his siblings are looking back at the loss of their father and exploring values in a time of cultural change.
The staging, a co-production with Pittsburgh's Public Theatre, is directed by Terrence LaMude, who staged the three previous Tavern productions in Buffalo, as well as Dudzick's Greetings! last season. LaMude also served as dramaturg for the sequel's New York City workshop in the summer of 1998.
The company of King O' the Moon includes Sean Maher (Rudy), Stephen Kunken (Eddie), Gavin Hawk (Georgie), Judith K. Hart (Ellen), Jenn Thompson (Maureen), who make their Studio debuts. Donald Christopher (Walter) was seen there in Greetings!, and Stacey Lynn Brass will play Annie, a role she created at the Studio in '95-96 and '96-97.
Designers are Gary English (providing the Buffalo back yard setting), Martha Hally (costumes), Tom Sturge (lighting), Tom Gould (sound). Stage manager is David S. Stewart.
The Pittsburgh Public, which had a major hit with Over the Tavern, hopes lightning will strike twice when the sequel's shared production moves there Jan. 7-Feb. 7, 1999.
Over the Tavern enjoyed popular productions at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, MA, Meadow Brook Theatre in the Detroit area, Sacramento Theatre Company, Capital Repertory Company in Albany, Little Lake Theatre Company in Canonsburg, PA, and Mountain Playhouse in Jennerstown, PA. Upcoming productions are planned for Seven Angels Theatre of Waterbury, CT, Cincinnati Playhouse in Park and Actors' Theatre of Ashland, OR.
Dudzick has been called a Catholic Neil Simon for his warm, funny portrayals of middle class families. He was born in Buffalo, NY, in 1950.
He wrote and produced dinner theatre in Western New York, became a Buffalo area favorite and moved to New York City in 1979. While working day jobs, he wrote a one-act comedy, Me, Too, Then, which won an award and was published by Samuel French. Greetings! was produced Off-Broadway starring Darren McGavin and has also become a regional favorite.
Over the Tavern (1994) and its sequel draw on aspects of Dudzick's Polish-Catholic upbringing in Buffalo. He lives in Forest Hills, NY, with his wife and two children.
Tickets are $18-$40.50. For Studio Arena information, call (716) 856 5650 or (800) 77-STAGE.
-- By Kenneth Jones