Monday, December 27, 2010

Over the Tavern

I went to see the Rep’s production of Over the Tavern on December 23, last Thursday.  We always end up with tickets the week of Christmas which is a little stressful in the days leading up to it but relaxing once we get there and realize that we’re just going to relax for an evening. 

We’ve seen Over the Tavern before at the Rep.  I remembered it as a rollicking funny story about a Catholic family who lived … over the tavern,of course.  The tavern is a family affair run by the father.  Supposedly the mother also tends bar but mostly she just seems to be a mom.  What I remembered about the show was that the father was loud and  bad tempered but he was redeemed in the end (I didn’t remember how) and I remembered that the one kid (Rudy) who gives the old nun a heart attack (literally) because he didn’t want to be confirmed was a sweet kid who just couldn’t keep himself from speaking the truth to power.  With the predictable consequences.

I remember liking that production.  This production I didn’t like as much.  The kids were so terrified of the father in this production that it was impossible to believe that he wasn’t more physically abusive than his character was written and I found it impossible to believe in the redemption at the end because of that.  I don’t think that was the fault of Kevin Cutts, who played him.  I think it was the fault of the way the kid characters reacted to him.  If they had blown him off a little more and taken him a little less seriously, it would have worked.  I have friends who had “Loud” dads who scared me but who didn’t seem to scare my friends.  They knew to ignore him most of the time.  And they knew when to steer clear of him.  That’s what these kids needed.  They needed to be tired of his moods and wary of him but not terrified of him.  These kids just seemed terrified. 

And Rudy was played with no sweetness in him whatsoever.  He was really kind of a dislikeable know-it-all. That was a problem.

On the other hand, Celeste Ciulla’s Ellen (the mother) and Eric Nelson’s Eddie (the older brother) were both delightful and when they were on stage the other flaws faded.  And I sat up straighter every time Sister Clarissa came on stage. (But did they really need two nun-shows in a row?)  The set design was also one of the best I’ve seen at the Rep.

So it wasn’t a bad production, it just wasn’t one of my favorites. I think having a terrified family as the Christmas show just didn’t work for me.   I hope they go back to having a musical next year. 

The last production of Over the Tavern was on December 26 so it is too late for you to catch it if you missed it.