The Pittsburgh Public Theater stand of Over the Tavern II: King O' the Moon, a co-production with Buffalo's Studio Arena, finally wanes, after an extension, on Feb 14.
The show was an audience favorite in Pittsburgh, as it was in Buffalo when it premiered Nov. 29, 1998-Jan. 3, 1999, at Studio Arena Theatre. Previews in Pittsburgh began Jan. 7, with a Jan. 15 opening. Tom Dudzick's sequel to his Over the Tavern was to run through Feb. 7, but enthusiastic audiences kept it going longer.
The first play, a coming-of-age chronicle of Polish-Catholic schoolboy Rudy Pazinski, was popular at Buffalo's Studio Arena Theatre (three times) and at the Pittsburgh Public and beyond, getting numerous stagings at regional theatres around the country. Regional artistic directors, planning their upcoming seasons, are keeping their ears open, hoping laughter strikes twice in the new Dudzick comedy. (The final weekend in Buffalo was a near sell-out, according to a Studio Arena spokesperson.)
Playwright Dudzick, a Buffalo native, was commissioned by Studio Arena artistic director Gavin Cameron-Webb to write both semi autobiographical plays about the contentious but warm and loving clan that shared a flat over the patriarch's bar. A third may be in the works. During the Nov. 29, 1998-Jan. 3, 1999 Buffalo run of the sequel, Dudzick rewrote some scenes and tightened his play. He attended performances in Pittsburgh, according to the Public's public relations director Tim Colbert.
Dudzick's Over the Tavern, about family ties and Catholic upbringing in Buffalo in the late 1950s, was one of the major regional hits of the decade, playing 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.
In the sequel, the first play's wisecracking kid protagonist, Rudy, is now a seminarian in his 20s in the late 1960s, and he and his siblings are looking back at the loss of their father and exploring their values in a time of cultural change.
The staging, a co-production with Pittsburgh's Public Theater, is directed by Terrence LaMude, who staged the three previous Tavern productions in Buffalo, as well as Dudzick's Greetings! there 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 continues to be Sean Maher (Rudy), Stephen Kunken (Eddie), Gavin Hawk (Georgie), Judith K. Hart (Ellen), Jenn Thompson (Maureen), Stephen Gaines (Walter), and Stacey Lynn Brass (Annie). Shortly after the Buffalo opening, Donald Christopher left the role of Walter due to a health reason and was replaced by Gaines.
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.
For Pittsburgh Public Theater information, call (412) 321-9800.
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 the New York City area with his wife and two children.
-- By Kenneth Jones