Sunday, May 05, 2002

'Moon' character just part of a family


Disability treated matter of factly

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        Which comes first, art or reality, is an age-old question for which I won't pretend to have an answer. I know I love art that reflects reality as I understand it, and that's why I love Tom Dudzick's King O' the Moon, now playing at Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park.

        It's a play about 1969, a year that I'm old enough to remember clearly and to have marked as a milestone year in my own youth. The year is what drew me to the play — the year and the memory of how I laughed and cried with the Pazinskis a decade ago when introduced to them in the first of Mr. Dudzick's trilogy, Over the Tavern.

        Each of these plays is, in part, about an era or culturethat has become a major player in its own right: growing up Catholic in Over the Tavern and the year 1969 in King O' the Moon. But this isn't a play about history.

        It's a play about a real family, a Polish-Catholic family in East Buffalo, N.Y., to be precise, and those characters are what make it so fine. Like any real family, each is unique and each plays a role in making the family whole.

        There's Rudy, (Christopher Drescher) who we first met as a 10-year-old struggling with his Catholic faith (until he realizes that some of the dumber rules weren't God's rules), now an anti-war demonstrating AWOL seminarian. There's the brother in fatigues afraid he won't come home from Vietnam, the sister with a troubled marriage, the mom still running the family tavern with her new beau. Even Chet, the now-dead Pazinski dad and husband has a part, because it is to give his annual “state of the family address” that has brought the Pazinskis together.

        My favorite character, though, and the proverbial icing on the Pazinski cake, is Georgie.

        A central character to the family and the play, Georgie (Geoffrey Molloy) is developmentally disabled. He is lovable, endearing, and cherished by the rest of the family. He is marked by joy and a kind of perpetual youth we recognize. His lines are few but essential, and nobody ever talks about him with regard to his unnamed disability.

        Nobody calls him “retard” or “spastic.” Nobody makes insipid references to his “specialness” or his “limitations.” In fact, the only reference to him is that he has been promoted from paper bags to boxes, and we recognize that the Pazinskis are celebrating that news on par with, say, the coming of Eddie's new baby.

        Georgie's lines are few but essential to the play as a whole, and Mr. Molloy delivers them as he dishes up this engaging character overall: with consistent triumph, joy, and a sense of business as usual.

        Characters with disabilities should be like real people in life with disabilities — just part of the overall fabric, neither more nor less, but equally essential to the whole. Because it is July 1969, we hear the progress reports of Apollo 11's mission to put a man on the moon as a backdrop to the more immediate reality, the lives of the Pazinskis themselves. Georgie is one of those members, just part of the family as it knows itself.

        It's a treat, albeit rare, to see that balance in art or reality, and I, for one, hope we don't have to wait another decade to see the Pazinskis in Lake Effect, the third play in Mr. Dudzick's wonderful Tavern Trilogy.

        King O' the Moon is playing Tuesday-Sundaythrough May 24 at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

        E-mail dkendrick@earthlink.net. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/kendrick

       



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