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Theater review: Valiant cast can’t do much with playwright’s contrived material

Theater review: Valiant cast can’t do much with playwright’s contrived material

Latham’s Curtain Call Theatre is presenting a skilled troupe of actors suffering and wasting their e

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For Gazette theater writer Bill Buell's preview of this show, click here.

One of the first rules in any type of creative writing is to write about what you know. Playwright Tom Dudzick does just that. He grew up Catholic with his family in Buffalo, so the topic of much of his work is Catholicism, family and Buffalo.

In Dudzick’s world that connection is supposedly funny, nostalgic and poignant. In reality, this playwright’s work has more connections to that infamous wisecrack from “A Chorus Line” about the redundancy of committing suicide in Buffalo — his plays are just as pointless. Just tack on the fact that suicide is considered a mortal sin — like boredom in the theater — and you have the work of playwright Tom Dudzick. Unfortunately, Latham’s Curtain Call Theatre is presenting a skilled troupe of actors suffering and wasting their efforts with Dudzick’s inept material, a “family in crises” dramady called, “King o’ the Moon.”

Set in 1969

It’s July 1969, and in the backyard of the Pazinskis’ family bar, the matriarch and her four children gather for a memorial dinner weekend — memorial as in family dinner for their deceased father. At the conclusion of the dinner, youngest son Rudy gives the “State of the Family” speech, highlighting the year in review of family members’ lives – to keep Dad informed–and a toast to the future. Well, I am not sure what took place over the course of a year, but shoved into the span of a two-hour play various family members suffer many maladies, crises of faith, lost touchstones, impending divorce, medical emergencies, phobias, uncontrolled outbursts of emotion, sibling rivalry, tear gas, family fisticuffs, jail time and a jello mold for desert. Gosh, what a day! Can’t wait to hear what happened during the rest of the year.

‘King o’ the Moon’

WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Road, Latham

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, through June 26

HOW MUCH: $20

MORE INFO: 877-7529 or www.curtaincalltheatre.com

Thankfully the evening is relatively short, the script offers a few chuckles, “few” being the operative word here, and, unlike the script, the cast is fresh and alert.

As Ellen, the clucking mother of the Pazinski brood, Angela Potrikus finds more depth to the woman than the playwright did, and we can be thankful that such skill exists. In a savvy performance, Potrikus instills more meaning with a quiet look and silence than Dudzick does with dialogue.

Matching her polish as her secret boyfriend Walter, Emmett Ferris’ simple, honest and vulnerable performance can be added to his growing list of outstanding and memorable stage appearances.

Ellen’s unhappy daughter Annie is a difficult role and Jessica Callahan distributes the misery well but misses the character’s hope. But then again, there may be none. The brothers are more stereotypical roles and therefore easier to portray. Isaac Newbury succeeds as bellicose, big brother Eddie. Carter Harris’ mentally challenged George, is sensitively portrayed, and while engaging, Jimmy Cupp hides most of Rudy’s “priest-in-training” angst behind an ever present grin that doesn’t really offer much glimpse of inner conflict. Jennifer Bullington does her best with Maureen, Eddie’s pregnant wife, a character that has no back story other than one of spending most of her time on her back.

The only character in the play that is truly happy and appealing is the dead dad, as he escaped this dismal group and he gets off easy as his recap of this family drama at the end of the evening is a scant five-minute update, while the audience isn’t so lucky.

Phil Rice’s direction is more than fine, as are the costumes, sound and set. But they cannot overcome this predictable, contrived and manipulative mess of a play.

Spare us the third

Apparently, playwright Dudzick has created a trilogy outlining this family’s plight and “King o’ the Moon” is the second installment. Curtain Call, please spare us episode three, as there is nothing much to see here, unless of course this family is confronted with a natural disaster to overcome, thwart a papal assignation plot and survive a plane crash on a South Pacific Island over the course of a family camping trip. For those that find this type of soap opera enjoyable, there are plenty of similar choices on television. Sally Field, in the insipid “Brothers and Sisters,” cries on cue every week. Try that. At least that is only an hour and has commercials that might be funny.

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