Playwright Tom Dudzick saw the third part of this Buffalo-set series presented in late 2001 at Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo, NY, but no other stagings emerged. He wasn't completely satisfied with his writing, he told Playbill On-Line, so he went back to the drawing board.
A rewrite of the play, which was — and is — called Lake Effect, will be heard June 13 as part of Victory Gardens Theatre's reading series in Chicago. Terence Lamude, who shepherded all three works in their Buffalo Studio Arena world premieres, directs the reading.
The cast will include VG artistic director Dennis Zacek, plus Rondi Reed and Erin Noel Grennan (who both appeared in the Mercury Theatre's King O' the Moon in Chicago). Other casting will be announced.
Dudzick told Playbill On-Line, "The basic story and characters are the same, but the focus of the play is different." He learned a lot from the 2001 run in Buffalo, and more than a third of the script is now new.
"The characters have the same problems, but the story is told in a different way," Dudzick said. Visit www.victorygardens.org.
The first two plays concerned the Polish Catholic Pazinksi family of Buffalo in the 1950s and '60s, respectively. The third play is set during the Blizzard of 1977. In 2001, Karl Kenzler played 31-year-old Rudy, all grown up and returning to Buffalo from his life in New York City.
According to 2001 production information: "Rudy has come back to Buffalo to make an important announcement to his family and to gather with other Pazinski clan members in attending the last mass of St. Casimir's — the neighborhood church that dominated and shaped their lives while growing up."
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 1990s, 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, Cincinnati Playhouse in Park, Actors' Theatre of Ashland, OR, and elsewhere.
It made its Chicago premiere at Skokie's Northlight Theatre, where it became the biggest box office smash of any non-musical there. The staging moved to a commercial run at the Mercury Theatre in Chicago. Mercury later presented King O' the Moon.
In King O' the Moon, the first play's wisecracking kid protagonist, Rudy, was a seminarian in his 20s in the late 1960s, and he and his siblings looked back at the loss of their father and explored their values in a time of cultural change. The third play in the trilogy takes place in the barroom of Chet's Bar & Grill (the tavern of the titles). The first play was in the apartment above the patriarch's saloon, the second was set in the backyard of the building.
"Rudy is more or less the central character, although it really is an ensemble piece," Dudzick previously said of No. 3. "Rudy has left the seminary far behind him and has now taken time off from pursuing a playwriting career in New York City to fly home and help out with a family crisis."
The first work, a coming-of-age chronicle of Polish Catholic schoolboy Rudy Pazinski, was popular at Buffalo's Studio Arena Theatre in three separate engagements.
Playwright Dudzick, a Buffalo native, was commissioned by Studio Arena artistic director Gavin Cameron-Webb to write the semi-autobiographical plays about the contentious but warm and loving clan.
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. He lives in the New York City area with his wife and two children.
"Lake Effect" refers to the meteorological occurrence that dumps extra snow on a region due to the moisture from a nearby lake — Lake Erie, in this case.