From the tavern to the moon

“King o’ the Moon” features, from left, Josh Price as Eddie, Ericka Winterrowd as Maureen, Thaddeus Walker as Rudy, Logan Wolfe as Georgie, Lauren Roth as Annie, Michael Crider as Walter and Nichole Hamilton as Ellen at the Hippodrome Theatre starting Friday.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:47 p.m.

The Pazinskis are back.


‘King o’ the Moon’

What: Tom Dudzick’s follow-up comedy to “Over the Tavern,” which played last year at the Hipp
When: Opens Friday with a preview performance at 8 p.m. today, showtimes are 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays through March 17.
Where: Hippodrome Theatre, 25 SE Second Place
Tickets: $30-35, $25 for senior citizens, $15 for students; tickets for tonight’s preview are $15 and $18
Info: 375-4477,

Last year, the Hippodrome Theatre staged “Over The Tavern,” a comedic drama about a family making its way through the seemingly idyllic ’50s. Friday marks the beginning of the sequel, “King o’ the Moon,” which brings the family through the turbulent ’60s.

Where “Tavern” followed young Rudy Pazinski as he pushed back against the strictures of Catholic school and cut up friends with his Ed Sullivan impression, “Moon” begins with him returning home from seminary school to visit his family on the anniversary of his father’s death, only to find his brother about to go away to war, his sister on the verge of divorce and his mother about to be remarried. As if that wasn’t enough drama, astronauts are circling the moon preparing to land.

“This was a time when huge shifts were going on,” says Michael Crider, who plays Walter, the suitor to Rudy’s mother. “We were in a war that so many people hated, but with the moon landing, it was a real clear choice in a time of unclear choices. Everyone in this play is faced with these choices.”

Director David Shelton agrees.

“It was the culmination of the ’60s,” he says. “All that turmoil, and suddenly there was this heroic event that lifted everyone up for a while.”

Indeed, the moon landing appears so often in the play, it seems unlikely that it was intended as a mere backdrop.

“It’s such a magical thought to put a man on the moon,” says Lauren Roth, who plays Rudy’s sister, Annie. “There are lines in the play where it feels like they’re saying, ‘If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can get over divorce, and turmoil and questioning our religion.’”

For all of its social undercurrents, though, the play is ultimately about family and the complex dynamics all families possess. And, a play that focuses so much on the family couldn’t ask for a better cast and director. Shelton is professor emeritus at the University of Florida, where he taught for more than 30 years in the School of Theatre and Dance. All cast members are either current or former students, and most studied under Shelton at some point. In other words, the play is all in the Gator family.

“It’s great because we still have a wonderful communication with each other,” Shelton says, adding that he has enjoyed seeing how his students have grown since graduating.

“There is a maturity to them that they have developed,” he says.

For some, like Thaddeus Walker, the only current UF student in the cast, that maturity has come from working with seasoned professionals.

“It’s the biggest role I’ve ever taken on, and it is my first professional role,” Walker says. “Dr. Shelton has really helped me get over being nervous and become more comfortable in the role.”

For others, like Nichole Hamilton, the only holdover from the “Tavern” cast, it comes from playing the same character at two different points of the character’s life (as well as her own life).

“It’s hard to articulate,” Hamilton says of playing such a role. “A year has passed in my life since I played her, and 10 years have passed in her life, so I kind of had to figure out what had happened in her life during that time. It’s really exciting, but it’s also a challenge.”

It’s an exciting challenge all right — kind of like trying to land on the moon.

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