Talk about your lake effect.
First they were sold out, now they're snowed out. At Buffalo, NY's Studio Arena Theatre, both of today's performances of Lake Effect: Over the Tavern Part III, have been cancelled, owing to a major blizzard still continuing in the area. The show is scheduled to end Dec. 29 but, should the snow continue for the rest of the day and evening (as the weather bureau predicts), it's likely the rest of Tavern III's run will be cancelled.
A box office spokesperson told Playbill On-Line Dec. 27, "We're buried in snow, and it's only getting worse. I'm looking at a big mountain of snow next to the building. The only reason we're here is because people have been calling and cancelling and getting information."
In a bit of irony, according to Weather.com, the current snowstorm — which, in some areas may reach four feet when all's said and done – is attributable to masses of cold air grabbing moisture from Lake Erie and plopping it down as snow, aka a "lake effect."
At this point, it's unlikely the white stuff will affect the schedule for Studio Arena's next offering, Pearl Cleage's Flying West, which is scheduled to start previews Jan. 6. Lake Effect: Over the Tavern Part III, the final chapter of Tom Dudzick's Pazinski family trilogy that began with the wildly popular Over the Tavern in 1994, began performances Nov. 25 for an official opening Nov. 29.
Terence Lamude, who shepherded the first part and its sequel, King O' the Moon, both concerning the Polish Catholic Pazinksi family of Buffalo in the 1950s and '60s, respectively, directs the new chapter, set during the Blizzard of 1977. Karl Kenzler plays 31-year-old Rudy, all grown up and returning to Buffalo from his life in New York City.
According to 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." The company includes Sean Dougherty as brother Eddie, Ryan Patrick Bachand as mentally challenged brother Georgie, Babo Harrison as sister Annie, Eileen Schuyler as mother Ellen, Johnette Sullivan as feisty Catholic activist Aunt Marge and Dane Knell as resident barfly Dinty Shanagan.
Designers are Douglas Huszti (set), Martha Hally (costumes), Tom Sturge (lighting) and Tom Gould (sound).
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 Nov. 23.
In the sequel, 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 told Playbill On-Line. "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: Over the Tavern Part III got a weeklong NEA-sponsored workshop beginning June 11, 2001, in Manhattan followed by a followup reading in July (to incorporate rewrites).
"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.
Tickets range $18-$45. Buffalo Studio Arena is at 710 Main Street at West Tupper in Buffalo. For information and snow updates, call (716) 856-5650 or (800) 77STAGE or visit studioarena.org.
— By David Lefkowitz
and Kenneth Jones