Last weekend, the folks over at Pec Playhouse Theatre opened their production of Tom Dudzick’s comedy, Over the Tavern to positive reception. The play, which chronicles a Catholic, working class family from 1950’s Buffalo, New York as they navigate the complications of relationships, growing up, and finding one’s place in the world, is under the direction of Ben Riddle. Your Rockford Theatre Examiner sat down with him for a chat about the show, and Riddle had many good things to say about the show, and about his experience.
Riddle has tackled the production as a first-time director. “I started doing theatre at [Pec] Playhouse four or five years ago,” Riddle says. “I’ve been in many shows, [but] this is my first time directing, and that’s been a very interesting and different experience, but one that I hope to do again. It’s been really fun.” Although he is making his directorial debut, Riddle has handled the duties of Music Director for numerous shows at Pec Playhouse Theatre and with other companies. He has found challenges in this undertaking, but has enjoyed the process. He describes his challenges as including “all of the things that were now my responsibility, to come up with an answer to the tiniest things and not being able to say ‘what do you think?’ to every question. To be the person with the answers has been kind of difficult at times.”
Riddle goes on to say that the script for the show has been an asset. “I love the script, it’s so well written. It’s about a family, which anyone can relate to… and that it’s about a family that’s not perfect, that’s really great.” He believes audiences will enjoy the script as well. “I think that no matter who they are, [audience members] are going to associate with one, or more, or all of the characters. They’ll get that families aren’t perfect and that it’s okay to question things. The message of the story is that it’s okay to not have all the answers.”
Riddle also cites his cast members as a benefit, both to him as a director, and to the experience of the audience. The cast includes Glen Wiegert as Chet, father of the family, Arianne Baer as mother Ellen, Brandon Williams as eldest sibling, Eddie, Alley DeYoung and Maddie Baer as the sister, Annie, John Lilly as brother Georgie, and Taylor Miller as brother Rudy, the character around which most of the story pivots. Outside the family unit, the show also features Laura Wiegert as Sister Clarissa, a nun at the children’s Catholic school.
The production will run for two more weekends, and Riddle urges patrons to come see a performance. “Yes, [the play] takes place over fifty years ago,” he says, “but taking that part out of it, everything that the characters go through is something that people go through now. At the end of the show, everything is ok. There’s no tragedy that they can’t overcome, whether it’s about their self-consciousness, or their image, or whatever it is, at the end it’s all ok. That the family has to stick together is one of my favorite messages in the show.”
Performances start at 8:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as 2:00 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets cost $14, and are available through the Pec Playhouse website, or via phone order at 815-239-1210. A word of advisement: there are very limited tickets remaining for this weekend, although next weekend has more availability.