Monday, April 22, 2002
Pazinskis encore with 'King o' the Moon'
By Jackie Demaline firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cincinnati Enquirer
When we saw the Pazinski family three years ago on stage at Playhouse in the Park, they were the stars of Over the Tavern.
It was Buffalo, N.Y., 1959. The working class, Polish-American, Catholic family was seen through the eyes of 12-year-old Rudy, who spent a lot of time working on his Ed Sullivan act and aggravating the daylights out of everyone.
Cincinnati loved the Pazinskis.
Most of America loved the Pazinskis, too, so much so that playwright Tom Dudzick has been making a very comfortable living off of them for the last few years. Now they are stars of a trilogy.
Part two of the Pazinski Chronicles is on stage at Playhouse for the next month.
In King o' the Moon, it's now Buffalo, 1969. The action has moved out of the family's apartment (over the tavern) and into the back yard. They are watching Apollo 11 land on the moon and marking the anniversary of the death of the family patriarch. Rudy is still aggravating the daylights out of everyone.
Mr. Dudzick chatted from Nyack (in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley) but don't be fooled. He's from Buffalo. He's Polish-American and a former Roman Catholic, and he admits to being the basis for Rudy.
I think it's the family nerve I've struck, says Mr. Dudzick. But it's probably also the commonality of the baby-boom experience. Who'd have thought, he chuckles, that being born into a working class family in the '50s was being born at the right place at the right time.
Tavern was very close to home. King o' the Moon is less so, although it's still written from the heart.
For Tavern, I'd been telling these family stories and making people laugh for years, and I finally said to myself, "Come on, this is a play do it.'
This time around, most of the incidents are made up. His older brother didn't ship out for Vietnam, and while Rudy is an AWOL seminarian, Mr. Dudzick notes I got out of the religion business when I was about 20.
Mr. Dudzick's father had died before he ever started writing Tavern he doesn't think he could have written any of the plays if his father had been alive. (If there's truth to Tavern, Mr. Dudzick's father tended toward harshness. The rest of the family members, he says, have a good sense of humor about the plays.)
The Pazinskis were supposed to retire from the stage after Tavern. Then Mr. Dudzick was commissioned to write a play for Buffalo's Studio Arena Theatre.
It was awful, he sighs. Terry Lamude (the writer's longtime collaborator) pulled me aside and said, "Write about what you know.'
The Pazinskis were back, 10 years later. Older brother Eddie is a newlywed getting ready to ship out, older sister Annie is in an unhappy marriage, Mom is still running the tavern. Mr. Lamude is directing again.
It is a little darker, says Mr. Dudzick. They're not as cute and funny as they were as kids. They're taking their lives more seriously.
The minute Mr. Dudzick decided he would continue with the Pazinskis, he knew it was going to be a trilogy because I couldn't just leave them where this one ends.
The final installment, Lake Effect, premiered in December at Arena Stage. It's set during the Blizzard of '77, and the playwright complains tongue-in-cheek about Mother Nature's lack of cooperation. The blizzard, he notes, would have been much more convenient in 1979.
Mr. Dudzick's serious writing career began when he moved to New York City and was torn between acting and writing.
I saw what actors go through, the determination and killer instinct they need. I thought it would be nicer to stay home and write.
His first stage success came shortly thereafter in the late '80s with the comedy Greetings.
He's spent a decade with the Pazinskis. While Mr. Dudzick was ready to move on when the opening night curtain dropped on Lake Effect, he's not sure what he'll move on to.
I'm meditating on what to write next, he says. I'm not ready to talk.
If you go
What: King o' the Moon
When: 7 p.m. today (preview), 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 5 and 9 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday through May 24.
Where: Playhouse in the Park Marx Theatre, Eden Park.
Tickets: $27 today and Wednesday previews; $32-$40 April 25-May 24. Unreserved tickets are half-price day of show (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) at the Playhouse box office. 421-3888 and (800) 582-3208.
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