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Center Stage: ‘Over the Tavern’ enchanting family comedy

By Staff | Mar 29, 2012

Over the Tavern by Tom Dudzick is an enchanting family comedy-just what was needed to close a successful season at the Herb Strauss Theater. The show was wonderfully Directed by Marc Tumminelli (making his Sanibel debut after many prestigious Regional Theater and National Touring Productions), acted by an incredible cast of mostly local actors and sponsored by our own Sanibel/Captiva Trust Company and Congress Jewelers. Take my advice drop everything and hotfoot it over to the Strauss Theater. This is one show that fits the bill for blowing the fears away; it’s just what the doctor ordered a good dose of laughter for these trying times.

Meet the Pazinskis-Mom, Ellen-Jenny Smith, Dad, Chet- Thomas Mothershed, and their four kids- Eddie(Justin Montgomery) Annie(Angelina Torre) Georgie(Jake Mann) and the hero of this tale,12 year old Rudy(Tommy Short). This is supposed to be a normal Catholic family living over a tavern they own in Buffalo New York. The time is 1959, that most idealized period of the 20th century America. Rudy, a bright kid with smarts, starts questioning family values and the Church; (he believes God put us on earth to “have fun”, and he’s trying to figure out why so much of what goes on in school, his family and with his friends isn’t fun).

His parents and Sister Clarissa ( Nancy Antionio) the terror of catechism class, are already up tight with worry for Rudy’s immortal soul, when he announces he doesn’t want to be confirmed and be “a soldier for Christ”. Rudy has big-time doubts about the whole Roman Catholic thing, and since he’s found out that there are 1,300 other religions in the world to pick from, he’s going to shop around to see which one fits him best, (probably one that’s a bit more fun & games)

When Rudy first matches wits with scary Sister Clarissa it looks like another variation of the Nuns of fun comedies of the past. Well, that’s true and not true. Sure Sister has the pat homily answers and the ever present clicker for attention and wooden ruler for discipline, this Sister is much more than a cartoon character or a nun to make fun of. She may be typical “nun” material but in Nancy Antonio’s capable, sensitive hands, this Sister is remarkably human with flaws, feelings and compassion, notably in her beautifully played tender scene with Rudy’s Dad

Life at Rudy’s home is no picnic either, no “Father Knows Best” in this household. This Dad is a deeply troubled man who leaves for work “in a bad mood” comes upstairs and home in an equally “bad mood” yelling at Mom and the kids. Thomas Mothershed creates a compelling character with his rumpled look and fly-off the handle temper, showing both the good and the tormented sides of this basically decent man, sucked into the whirl pool of the daily grind.

Jenny Smith plays the valiant mother Ellen trying to keep her family together. She is absolutely stunning as a down to earth, strong but loving Mom. One scene stands out between these two when Mom and Dad suddenly galumph around the living room in an energetic late night polka (when the kids are in bed), this is a truly lovely bit of midnight madness.

The local young actors all of whom are making their Sanibel Debuts truly deserve high praise for giving really first rate performances. Justin Montgomery as the impulsive older brother Eddie shows great promise in pursuing an acting career.

Chalk up high marks too for Cypress Lake High School Senior Angelina Torre, in her thoughtful portrayal of the innocent older sister Annie, grappling with the confusion of her sexual awakening. High marks also for the talented Jake Mann who keeps in character throughout his entire performance in the very challenging role of the autistic brother Georgie.

Rudy, at the center of this story is played by Tommy Short. Tommy is a freshman at Cypress Lake High School so that makes him about 14, but being the actor that he is, he sure plays the heck out of being 12 and a confused pre- teen. I recently saw Tommy play another YOUNGER brother Randolph McAfee in “Bye Bye Birdie” at Cypress Lake this Fall. He may play younger but his kind of talent has no age limit; this young man has an acting instinct and comic timing way beyond his years. For example, he’s an absolute scream one minute in his right on takeoff of Ed Sullivan then heartbreakingly poignant in his one-on-one scene with Sister Clarissa in her hospital room.

The real kudos belong to the spot on Direction of Marc Tumminelli. His casting for this show couldn’t have been better, and the sensitivity he gets from the nuanced performances of his actors is nothing short of brilliant. Tumminelli’s timing, blending comic moments to penetrating sad ones is seamless and impeccable.

The inventive yet homey Set Design by William Davis, lighting by David A. Sexton, Costumes by Ryan J. Moller, all contribute to make “Over the Tavern” an enchanting evening of live theater currently enchanting the audiences at the Herb Strauss Theater. Since this production only plays till April 21st my suggestion would be to phone the Box Office asap 472-6862 and when you phone remind ’em Marsha sent you.

Before I sign off I want to alert you all that last week was the final concert for the Ft. Myers Community Concerts; and what a finale that was with the Vienna Boys Choir under the Direction of Manolo Cagnin. This extraordinary choir has collected music from around the world, introducing the boys to as many different styles of music as possible and then dazzling their audiences with this “world music”. Last week’s program was a wonderful amalgamation of both the new and the old from Carmina Burana, Brahm’s “Regina Coeli” and Johann Strauss’ “Tritsch Tratsch Polka, to “Gamelam” and “Miniwanka” by Raymond Murray Schafer, to a medley of songs from the movie “Sister Act”. All in all it was a grand night for singing by the Vienna Boys Choir.

The week before the Community Concerts featured the mighty Minnesota Orchestra playing an awesome evening of music. Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn,Opus 56a opened the evening, followed by Sibelius Concerto for Violin in D minor Opus 47 featuring Midori on violin and ending the program with a rousing rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No.5 all under the Direction of Osmo Vanska. Wow what an uplifting evening at Community Concerts. Now for a bit of advertising for next season where else could you get 5 major concerts such as The St. Petersburg State Orchestra, Verdi’s Rigoletto,the Moscow Festival Ballet performing the full length ballet “Swan Lake”, The Minnesota Orchestra, and the Vienna Boys Choir for a mere $150 for a seat in the Mezzanine?

That’s the price for a single seat at one Carnegie Hall Concert that is if you can get a seat at that price. Soooo having said all that call the Ft Myers Community Concert Office at their new number (239) 693-4849 do it today seats sell out fast. Remember when you phone remind ’em you know who sent you.