THE BASICS: DON’T TALK TO THE ACTORS, a comedy written and directed by Tom Dudzick (of OVER THE TAVERN fame), stars (in alphabetical order) Kevin Craig, Wendy Hall, Pamela Rose Mangus, Jamie Nablo, Peter Palmisano, and Steve Vaughan. It runs through October 2, Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30 p.m., (September 16 at 8), Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave on the D’Youville College campus (829-7668). www.kavinokytheatre.com Runtime a little over 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: All of the action takes place in a shabby theatrical rehearsal studio in the theater district of New York City “in the present day” and according to the author/director, Buffalo’s own Tom Dudzik, it’s based upon his real-life experience putting up his own first New York play, which was GREETINGS! As the play opens we meet, over time, the various principals – stage manager, playwright, his wife, the male star, the female star, and the director. As people take calls (on their cell phones), go out in the hallway to conduct business, and generally pursue their own agendas, there are set-backs and triumphs, but, unfortunately, not enough laughs for those of us watching.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: All the players, and they can rank themselves among Buffalo’s finest, really work hard in this performance. The casting seems right, the ensemble works well together, and everyone stays in character at all times, one of the hallmarks of great acting. So, kudos to everyone on stage.
And speaking of the stage, the set design by David King was spot-on, evoking a tired, old building with no amenities and the properties by Diane Almeter Jones matched the set perfectly.
So, what’s the problem? I’m afraid it’s the play and the direction, both of which come from the same person (never a good idea, by the way). And that’s Buffalo-boy-made-good, the creator of the beloved OVER THE TAVERN as well as OVER THE TAVERN II, Tom Dudzik. According to Mr. Dudzik in his Director’s Notes: “This play was written in response to my wife’s question, ‘Why don’t you write something that’s just funny?’” Good idea, but this ain’t it.
Even though the play was published as recently as 2009, it didn’t feel at all contemporary and part of the problem is that this is a memoir play. That’s fine, but then why is it set in the present day? While OVER THE TAVERN freely wallowed in nostalgia, and we loved every minute of it, this play could have done that as well. Instead, we get a few Buffalo references and some mention of the (on stage) playwright and the director in the play having a shared Polish heritage, but in 2016, that sort of humor just doesn’t seem to work the way it once did.
So, based on the reputations of everyone involved, this promised to be a winner, and while it was a pleasant afternoon’s diversion, it didn’t deliver on that (implied) promise.
Lead image: L-R Palmisano, Hall, Vaughan
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!