The Polish-Catholic Pazinski family is a hit all over again in Buffalo.
The final weekend of Tom Dudzick's Over the Tavern Part II: King O' the Moon at Studio Arena Theatre of Buffalo is almost sold out in its world premiere run through Jan. 3, 1999.
The only tickets available are for the Dec. 31 matinee, publicist Jennifer Parker told Playbill On-Line Dec. 29. The rest of the Tuesday-Sunday shows are sold out.
This sequel to the 1994 Studio Arena hit, Over the Tavern, is a co- production between Studio Arena and Pittsburgh Public Theater. Tickets are $18-$40.50. For Studio Arena information, call (716) 856 5650 or (800) 77-STAGE.
The Buffalo-born Over the Tavern was such a smash for three seasons (the world premiere and two revivals) at Studio Arena, artistic director Gavin Cameron-Webb commissioned playwright Dudzick to write the sequel. The world premiere of Over the Tavern Part II: King O' the Moon began previews Nov. 29, 1998 and opened Dec. 4. King O' the Moon moves on to Pittsburgh -- where Over the Tavern was also a smash -- beginning Jan. 7, 1999. It plays to Feb. 7. For Public Theatre information, call (412) 321-9800.
The warm comedy-drama follows the further exploits of the Polish Catholic Pazinski family of Buffalo, a clan subsequently embraced by regional theatre audiences. As they prepare their 1999-2000 seasons, artistic directors have been keeping their ears open, hoping laughter strikes twice.
The sequel's Buffalo run exceeded box office projections, said Parker, who added she wouldn't be surprised to see the play return to the Studio Arena in future seasons. She said Dudzick revised the script as the run continued, fine-tuning scenes.
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.
In the sequel, the first play's wisecracking kid protagonist, Rudy, is now grown 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 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.
Donald Christopher left shortly after opening due to a health reason and was replaced by Stephen Gaines. Gaines will play the role in Pittsburgh.
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.
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 suburban New York City with his wife and two children.
-- By Kenneth Jones