You can take the playwright out of Buffalo. You can even try to take Buffalo out of the playwright.
But the results, at least judging by Tom Dudzick’s play, “Don’t Talk to the Actors,” won’t be pretty.
That goes for the characters in this backstage drama about a Buffalo playwright trying to make it in the big city, which opened the Kavinoky Theatre season on Friday night.
It goes for Dudzick himself, who built his career on sepia-toned stories of his Buffalo youth with his “Over the Tavern” plays but seems less assured the farther away he and his characters venture from the 716 area code.
And it goes for the production he directed, which beguiles us as only Dudzick can but falls short of delivering the laughter of its most recent local showing at Studio Arena Theatre 10 seasons ago.
The play, which follows Dudzick stand-in Jerry Przpezniak (the excellent Kevin Craig) as he tries to put up his first production on Broadway, is little more than a notebook of broadly sketched archetypes navigating an even sketchier plot. The story concerns the difficulties of producing a play in New York City, from the rampaging egos of the former TV actors cast in the starring roles to the fragile psyches of the wide-eyed playwright and his frenetic girlfriend (Jamie Nablo).
The egos in question belong to the insecure Curt Logan and Beatrice Pomeroy, brought sneering to life by Peter Palmisano and Pamela Rose Mangus, each magnificent. They quibble and squabble and chew the scenery as Jerry and his wife look on in horror and director Mike Policzek (Steve Vaughan, channeling John Goodman) try to keep the whole thing from imploding. Toss in one almost superfluous character, an overworked stage manager slightly overplayed by Wendy Hall, and hilarity is obligated to ensue. It does, but only in fits and starts.
The production, on David King’s fine set and under Brian Cavanagh’s lights, looks great. And despite the flimsiness of its construction and the predictability of its plot points – or maybe because of that – Dudzick has managed in scattered spots to transpose his trademark glow of Buffalo-bred nostalgia and optimism to an entirely new setting.
For many, the two or three genuinely riotous scenes from “Don’t Talk to the Actors” will be worth the price of admission. But it suffers somewhat by comparison to Dudzick’s great works.