Nyack playwright Tom Dudzick might have grown up in Buffalo, but he rightly calls Stony Point’s Penguin Rep Theatre his artistic home. For three summers running, the barn theater has presented Dudzick’s plays “Miracle on South Division Street,” “Over the Tavern” and “Greetings!”
Make that four. Starting Friday, it’s “Don’t Talk to the Actors,” Dudzick’s “semi-fictional” account of a playwright whose Broadway-bound play is hijacked by his desire to please the cast.
Director Tom Caruso’s cast is led by two-time Tony nominee Beth Fowler (“The Boy from Oz,” “Sweeney Todd”) and Richard Kline, (“Larry” from TV’s “Three’s Company”), both of whom Penguin audiences saw in last season’s “Greetings!”.
The rest of the cast is David Arkema, Wilbur Henry, Claire Karpen and Alexandra Turshen. The play runs through Aug. 26.
Dudzick says “Don’t Talk to the Actors” was inspired by the 1993 Off-Broadway run of “Greetings!” that starred Darren McGavin, forever known as the father on “A Christmas Story.”
“He was, rest his soul, sort of troublesome,” Dudzick says. “I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to talk to these people. I was so impressed with him. ‘Oh, my God! It’s Darren McGavin! He’s in my play! He wants to discuss my script! How thrilling!’ But I didn’t realize that he was trying to steer me into rewrites.”
It was pretty bad there for a while, Dudzick says.
“He was calling my house at night with a whole scene he had rewritten,” he says. “I didn’t let it get too far after that. I’d tell the director ‘Darren’s calling me.’”
“Greetings!” lasted seven weeks at the John Houseman Theater, but has gone on to regional success.
And Dudzick’s run-in with the night stalker led directly to “Don’t Talk to the Actors,” which premiered in Buffalo in 2007.
That production was also directed by Caruso and also starred Kline as the rather pompous fading actor who tries to change the script to make it “grittier.”
Fowler’s character, inspired by the bawdy comedienne Belle Barth, likewise tries to steer the impressionable playwright into making changes.
In the play, someone tells the budding playwright that his plays are too nice.
“‘It’s too nice for New York. People aren’t nice in New York.’ That kind of stuff has plagued me for years, that my characters are too nice, my plays are too nice for New Yorkers and that it won’t fly here. I can’t say that they’re wrong. Maybe it’s true. But it’s OK, because the regionals like me. I seem to resonate with those people and that’s where I’m from.”
While the play’s action is heightened, Dudzick admits to being “the wide-eyed guy coming to New York, susceptible to falling into the trap of talking to the actors and doing what they’d like just to please them.”
“Ohhhhhh, yeah,” he says. “My conduit is the director. Everything goes through him.”
That made it more difficult on Dudzick this spring when he became a first-time director, leading a production of the play at the Montgomery Theater in Souderton, Pa. The irony was not lost on Dudzick.
“Here I am, finally able to talk to the actors, and it’s a play called “Don’t Talk to the Actors,’” he says with a grin. “I did all of my homework. I did not want to be that unprepared director.”
Dudzick says working directly with the actors allowed him to streamline some lines without the actors wondering “is this what the playwright intended, because there I was.”
If Jerry the playwright is too eager to please, Dudzick is certainly open to making changes. He changed the title of “Our Lady of South Division Street” to “Miracle on South Division Street” and took it Off-Broadway this spring, directed by Penguin’s poobah Joe Brancato.
“They tell me there are playwrights — I don’t know any like this — but they tell me there are playwrights who will not change a word. And I’ve sort of been blessed with this attitude, like Jerry says in the play. ‘If it’s not working, we’ll fix it.’ Thank goodness I have that, becau’se I’ve fixed a lot. A lot of things go wrong and you have to be open to it. I’ve had a playwright say to me: ‘Gee, how do you do that? How do you change things?’ And I scream ‘You change them because they’re not working!’”
“Don’t Talk to the Actors,” Penguin Rep Theatre, 7 Crickettown Road, Stony Point. Weekends, Aug. 3 to 26. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. $39. Discounts for groups and those 30 and younger. All seats for a special 2 p.m. preview performance on Aug. 3 are $19.50. 845-786-2873 www.penguinrep.org. Next: Sarah Treem’s “The How and the Why,” directed by Joe Brancato, runs Oct. 5-28.
(Photos by Aaron Pepis: Top, the cast of Penguin Rep Theatre’s production of “Don’t Talk to the Actors” by Nyack playwright Tom Dudzick includes, from left: Alexandra Turshen (Arlene), David Arkema (Jerry), Claire Karpen (Lucinda), Wilbur Henry (Mike), Beth Fowler (Beatrice) and Richard Kline (Curt Logan). Middle: Richard Kline (Curt Logan), Alexandra Turshen (Arlene, upstage) and Beth Fowler (Beatrice) in “Don’t Talk to the Actors.” Bottom photo by Peter Carr/The Journal News: Tom Dudzick at Penguin Rep.)
Article taken from In the Wings -
URL to article: http://theater.lohudblogs.com/2012/07/30/playwright-tom-dudzick-on-not-talking-to-actors/
But Tom Dudzick’s “Miracle on South Division Street,” at St. Luke’s Theater, is a sprightly, gentle comedy, where revelations that might remake a family’s sense of itself are each rolled out in service of laughter.
“Miracle” concerns the Nowaks, rock-solid members of the Roman Catholic, Polish-American community on the East Side of Buffalo. They’ve been maintaining a shrine that Grandpa Nowak built in 1943, commemorating a vision — of the Virgin Mary preaching world peace — that he said he had shortly after arriving in town and opening his barbershop.
Literally keeping the faith nearly 70 years later in the gritty, deteriorating neighborhood are his daughter, Clara (Peggy Cosgrave), and her grown children: Jimmy (Rusty Ross), a garbage collector, Bev (Liz Zazzi), a ketchup bottler, and Ruth (Andrea Maulella), who would be a struggling actress if she could only get a part.
It’s the shrine that has given the family its identity: “We were selected,” Clara says firmly, even if the church won’t recognize her father’s account as a miracle. Clara long ago converted the barbershop into a kitchen for the poor, proudly offering soup “prepared on holy ground.” If Jimmy is tired of telling passing strangers the story, hoping for contributions, Bev believes it fervently, and restricts her romances to those men who might believe it too. When Ruth gathers the family to ask permission to dramatize the shrine’s history, they at first applaud, then are alarmed when she adds, “I mean the true story.” Oh, really? Do tell.
This production from the Penguin Rep Theater company (staged previously as “Our Lady of South Division Street” ) is nicely lived in. Joe Brancato directs the back-and-forth easily, and the kitchen set by Josh Iacovelli, with yellowed cabinets, faded wallpaper and an ancient refrigerator, has a stuck-in-the-’70s familiarity. The players are all very comfortable in their roles — Ms. Cosgrave gets the most laughs — though only Ms. Zazzi has the hard A of the Buffalo accent nailed. If the epilogue feels unnecessary and a bit out of character, its all’s-well-that-ends-well spirit is in keeping with the sweetness that this comedy sustains throughout.
“Miracle on South Division Street” is at St. Luke’s Theater, 308 West 46th Street, Clinton; (212) 239-6200, telecharge.com.
"Joe Brancato Will Direct Off-Broadway's Miracle On South Division Street; Casting Announced"
By Michael Gioia
|On April 16, the 2012 Lucille Lortel
Award nominees were honored at a reception at Planet
Hollywood Times Square.
Say hello to nominees representing The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith: playwright Angelo Parra, star Miche Braden, director Joe Brancato and producer Edmund Gaynes.
Miche Braden is nominated for a 2012 Drama Desk Award as Best Actress
|THE DEVIL'S MUSIC was also nominated for an OFF-BROADWAY ALLIANCE AWARD as Best Special Event|
ONLY $39.50 WITH THIS OFFER FOR
“THE CROWD-PLEASING TOM DUDZICK COMEDY” – THE NEW YORK TIMES
“When a nice Catholic boy suggests that his sister add a jar of gefilte fish to the cheese, pepperoni and beer on her shopping list, you know something strange is going on. And why not? There’s a very strange family at the center of the crowd-pleasing Tom Dudzick comedy.”
– The New York Times
|Co Producer Morton Wolkowitz With Associate Producer Joseph Grosso On Penguin Reps Opening Of Miracle!|