By Claire DeMarco, ‘Burgh Vivant
In the 1950’s in upper state New York the Pazinski’s, a Polish Catholic family, live above Chet’s Bar and Grill, the eponymous establishment run by Chet Pazinski (Steven F. Gallagher).
Chet and his wife Ellen (Megan May) have four teenage children, Rudy (Dylan Lawton), Georgie (Ben Meyer), Annie (Delilah Hartlage) and Eddie (Aidan Cheek).
As a Roman Catholic approaching confirmation, Rudy challenges Sister Clarissa (Lynne Franks) as he decides to “shop around” for another religion. Vocalizing his frustration, Rudy decides that “God put us on Earth to have fun” and Catholicism doesn’t quite cut it anymore. He’s so adamant about seeking a new religion that he cuts off the ears of a Mickey Mouse hat, creating a Yarmulke. Rudy now declares that he is Jewish.
Constantly exasperated and frustrated, Sister Clarissa is determined that Rudy will make his confirmation. She uses her walking cane to get Rudy’s attention but is most successful by using a clicker against his ear when he doesn’t listen.
Ellen runs the household, takes care of her children, all of whom have their own issues and problems. Teenager Eddie thinks he is street wise while Annie is insecure and sensitive. Georgie is mentally challenged with unique issues. And Rudy is Rudy. Ellen oversees all her children while at the same time attempts to keep Chet as content as possible. Chet is remote, usually angry at his children and generally miserable.
Note: The Pazinski household is not like the sitcom households of the 50’s where everyone is happy most of the time and any problems that do arise are quickly and satisfactorily resolved.
Undercurrents of unfulfilled dreams and frustrations flow through this story.
Franks shines as the nun, stern when necessary, patient when the situation arises and always in control. She is adept at delivering some of the best comedic lines in the play.
Lawton is delightful as the ever-curious, questioning Rudy who never stops asking why. He is able to portray a range of emotions, especially in his conversations with Jesus which are at times pleading, angry but never subtle.
Gallagher transitions easily between an irate, angry husband and father to an occasionally softer soul. Much emotion is expressed through facial expressions and general movement.
May is sympathetic, feisty, funny, argumentative as she deals with a challenging husband and four unique kids. She has perfect comedic timing.
Hartlage is believable as she battles with no confidence, is nervous about everything with her hormones on parade.
Cheek develops his character from a young teenager worried about incurring his father’s anger to finally standing up to him.
Meyer has little dialogue as the mentally-challenged younger sibling but he brilliantly expresses himself through his controlled facial expressions and movements.
Director Lora Oxenreiter sums up “Over the Tavern” as “a comedy drama with a ray of hope”.
“Over the Tavern” is a production of Little Lake Theatre Company, 500 Lakeside Drive South, Canonsburg, PA 15317 and runs from November 7 – November 23, 2019. For more information, click here.