Over the Tavern | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Over the Tavern 

Over the Tavern, Attic Playhouse. It's hard to tell whether Tom Dudzick meant this play to be anything more than a comic reminiscence of growing up in a working-class Catholic family in the years just prior to Vatican II. The script touches on critiques of the church--for thwarting original thinking, for stifling adolescent curiosity, for encouraging nuns to practice excessively harsh discipline--and on the troubling issue of abusive fathers. Then Dudzick passes them all over with a sweet, nostalgic smile. Ah, the good old days, when dads were as mean as nuns and vice versa.

Still, this play about a slightly cracked Polish family living above the family tavern in Buffalo in 1959 manages to amuse, thanks in large part to Dudzick's gifts as a storyteller. His comic characters are both believable and just exaggerated enough to be funny. His story is structured enough to maintain momentum but wanders enough to pass for a slice of real life.

Lauren Berman Rawitz's production is workmanlike, with a wildly uneven cast: the performances range from very good (Kathleen Ruhl as Sister Clarissa) to over-the-top (Jim Jarvis as the father). The pacing is likewise spasmodic: some scenes unfold flawlessly while others pass too quickly. Overall the show succeeds, however, if you're not in the mood for something deep or incisive.

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