King O’ the Moon closes Sunday
“King O’ the Moon” currently playing at the Florida Rep. was written by Tom Dudzick, this playwright has scribed a series of semiautobiographical plays about growing up Catholic in Buffalo. In this author’s cannon is a trio of plays, the “Over the Tavern Trilogy”; “King O’ the Moon” is part of that trilogy (this series, has been touted as, “… one the biggest, grass roots successes in American Regional Theater”); most of Dudzick’s plays got their first public performances at Dudzicks home theater, Buffalo’s, State Arena Theatre. According to critics, Tom Dudzick has been named, the Catholic Neil Simon he has “… a knack for placing families in funny situations that pull at the heartstrings while prompting laughs”. “King O’ the Moon” is no exception to that rule, but you don’t have to be Catholic or even religious to enjoy this heartwarming Florida Rep. production.
The first play in the trilogy “Over the Tavern” (also performed by the Rep. a few years back) was a coming of age tale set in a Buffalo barroom owned by the Parzinksi tribe; “King O’ the Moon” is the second installment. In “King” the time frame takes place 10 years later, the Pazinski patriarch has passed, his children have grown; some have married and starting families of their own. But there are more changes afoot, Rudy (Jason Parrish) the precocious adolescent, mouthy, rebel protagonist, defying Catholic dogma in “Over the Tavern”, is now 20 and a seminarian, currently AWOL from his priest’s training, in order to participate in an antiwar demonstration and then attend the annual Pazinski picnic, a yearly event commemorating the elder Pazinski’s death.
Meanwhile, elder brother Eddie (Jacob Womack) has been drafted; he’s about to ship off to Vietnam, leaving his newly married and pregnant wife (a former, easy, breezy, neighborhood, pop tart, Maureen (Rachel Lomax) alone, but at home in the bosom of the Pazinski family. Another member of the Pazinski clan is sister Anne (Claire K.Guy), who is currently struggling with a rocky marriage, the youngest member of the family is their loveable, mentally challenged, youngest brother, Georgie (Adam Jones), and finally there is the matriarch of the Pazinski tribe, Ellen (Carrie Lund) the no nonsense, widowed mom. Ellen unbeknownst to her grown children has taken up with the family’s friend, Walter (Mark Chambers), with whom she runs the tavern.
The time is July 1969 just as Neil Armstrong is about to walk on the moon in the title. The opening scene takes place in the Parzinski’s back yard as we hear the TV is covering the moon launch, while there are luxurious moans and sighs coming from a darkened room over the garage where Eddie and Maureen have retreated to escape the paper thin walls of the family’s bedrooms over the tavern. The laughs gotten from the thrust and trajectory descriptions are in perfect sync, making for some pretty hilarious double entendres. Next Rudy arrives home from the anti war rally, he wants to drive Eddie to Canada, especially after learning a chum of theirs has been killed.
One could say that “King O’ the Moon”, is a sort of nostalgic, domestic look back at the 1960’s; a heartwarming look at how a loving family deals with a loss of innocence, in a world going through some monumental transitions; men walking on the moon, civil unrest protesting an unpopular war, student anti war protest riots, women’s rights rallies, oral contraception and legalized abortion. Playwright Dudzick serves up these knotty issues up so adroitly that they go down like comfort food.
Jason Parish is admirable as Rudy the peacenik, AWOL seminarian, equally strong is Jacob Womack as the older brother Eddie; Adam Jones lights up the stage with his wonderfully touching portrayal of Georgie the special needs character. Rachel Lomax is a delight as Maureen the pregnant wife with the easy virtue. Claire Guy gave a fine performance giving weight to her character of the sister, Annie, even though she doesn’t for a moment physically look like a character someone would call Crisco (fat in the can); Mark Chambers created an endearing portrait of Walter the love smitten senior. But it is Carrie Lund that is the anchor of this show with her thoughtful interpretation of Ellen.
Artistic/Producing/Director has hit pay dirt once again making “King O’ the Moon” a papal laugh harvest moon and family comedy delight.
So if you are ready to partake of an evening’s entertainment featuring a bitter sweet look at what is a clever hybrid of a dysfunctional family sitcom, that is tinged with bright comic nostalgia; comforting as home made bread then “King O’ the Moon” will leave you entertained as well as satisfied. Get your slice of Americana by phoning the Arcade Box Office 332-4488 before April 24, when the show closes. When you phone remind ’em Marsha sent you.