The Chicago premiere of Tom Dudzick's hit Catholic-family comedy, Over the Tavern, the biggest non-musical hit in the history of the nonprofit Northlight Theatre in Skokie, begins its commercial transfer run Nov. 23 at the Mercury Theatre in Chicago, toward an opening night of Nov. 30.
The resident Northlight staging (directed by William Pullinsi) played Oct. 3-Nov. 18 and moves intact (with the exception of one actor) to the Mercury, with Pullinsi & D'Angelo Productions producing. The final weekend at Northlight was virtually sold out, a spokesman said.
The Northlight reviews were golden and word of mouth has traditionally stimulated box office in the show's regional stagings. In Catholic-rich Chicago, Tavern, the American smash that started at Buffalo's Studio Arena and played resident houses throughout the country in the 1990s, would have seemed an obvious programming choice for the Windy City years ago. Chicago is, after all, the city that supported the Catholic musical, Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? for a long run and many revivals.
* Pullinsi directs the gentle coming-of-age comedy about the Polish-Catholic Pazinskis of Buffalo, which its author would argue is about much more than "growing up Catholic." The play would spawn a sequel that further followed the Pazinski family, the clan that lives over the patriarch's neighborhood bar in the 1950s. In Over the Tavern, the precocious 12-year old, Rudy, an Ed Sullivan impersonator, challenges Sister Clarissa, his teacher, in a time when issues of faith and religion were becoming less black and white in America.
The first play takes place in the late 1950s, and the sequel, King O' the Moon, was set 10 years later in the Vietnam era. Dudzick has penned a second sequel, Lake Effect, set in the late 1970s, and Buffalo's Studio Arena will offer the world premiere Nov. 29 (after previews that start Nov. 25). Dudzick, a Buffalo area native, also wrote the popular holiday play, Greetings.
The Skokie company includes Craig Spidle, Mary Seibel, Kate Buddeke, Justin Colewa (replacing James McKay), Katie Korby, Ross Harris and (as Rudy) Bobby Anderson. Designers are Richard and Jacqueline Penrod (set), Judith Lundberg (costumes), Charles Jolls (lights) and Joe Tech Huppert (sound).
Tickets range $38.50-$44.50. The Mercury is at 3745 N. Southport in Chicago. For information, call (773) 325 1700.
— By Kenneth Jones