King o' the Moon | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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King o' the Moon

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King o' the Moon, Mercury Theater. In this sequel to Over the Tavern, Tom Dudzick attempts to repeat the trick he pulled off in his popular first play: faithfully re-creating an unfamiliar, long-gone world. But that play is set in 1959, before the pill, Vietnam, and Vatican II, and King o' the Moon is set ten years later, in a period thoroughly digested by sitcoms, nostalgic radicals, and grandstanding reactionaries. So the sociological background of the era--the first moon landing, the endless arguments about Vietnam (here between a peacenik seminarian and his hawkish brother)--feels old hat.

At the character level, however, Dudzick hasn't lost his touch. And his believable creations are enhanced by William Pullinsi's adept casting and fine if workmanlike direction. Bryan McElroy and Ryan Kitley are particularly good as the two brothers at the center of the play. Steppenwolf ensemble member Rondi Reed, who always seems to get stuck in roles there that don't quite fit her, is perfectly cast here as the Pazinski matriarch.

In telling the story of the family's annual reunion to honor the memory of their dearly departed dad, Dudzick does seem to gloss over the conflicted feelings they must have for a man who was an SOB of Great Santini proportions in the first play. Still, for those fond of Over the Tavern, there's something fascinating about seeing how the people we came to know so well have fared over a tumultuous decade.

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