King O' the Moon shuttles us back in time to 1969, as we visit the people, their lives and times as the Apollo Astronauts first set foot on the moon!

L-R Georgie Pazinski (Eric Inman), Ellen Pazinski (Barbara Grant*), Rudy Pazinski (David Beale), Annie Pazinski (Andrea Snow), Eddie Pazinski (Seth Thygesen), Maureen (Meryn MacDougal)
(*Actors Equity Assn.) gathered around the picnic table in the family's back yard!

Photo by Judy Potter

The Willows Theatre’s Mainstage facility has made a triumphant return to the Willows Shopping Center in Concord this year, beginning with Broadway Star David Burnham’s performance for the opening Gala on March 12th. I know that a lot of Rossmoor residents are actually excited about this marvelous medium sized theatrical venue being saved from extinction by the Willow’s Theatre’s new management team, David P. Faustina and Eric Inman. Last night I dropped in at the Starlight Amphitheater Theater in Orinda to catch the closing performance of “The Mousetrap”, when I ran into several staunch local theater aficionados and we talked about the state of local theater. When the subject of the Willows Theater came up, several people chimed in that they were thrilled to hear that the company had been able to reorganize and find the means to raise sufficient funds to re-open a local theater that they had long enjoyed and really missed. When I told them how terrific the new show, “King O’ The Moon” was, they said they would defiantly purchase tickets and go to see this production.

“King O’ the Moon” is a sequel to the very warmly received earlier play by Tom Dudzick, “Over the Tavern”, which played in this same theater several years ago. When I reviewed “Over the Tavern”, I remarked that Dudzick had truly captured many of the trials and tribulations of middle American family values as reflected by a hard-working and close-knit Polish-Catholic family in Buffalo, New York. I discovered that I was not the first theater reviewer who found himself comparing Dudzick to another favorite of many, Neil Simon.

Life’s experiences teach us that many families that fight frequently are in reality, very close and caring families, they just express themselves and their love and frustrations with their family members siblings in a very straight forward, no–holds-barred way. In fact, it is often the family that expresses their frustrations very openly that turn out to be the most supportive when someone or something threatens that family unity or its core values.

The time frame has moved forward with this family from the Eisenhower late 1950’s to 1969, on the eve of the Apollo moon landing, a very historical day for mankind, and a very heartwarming and historical day for the Pazinski family as well. This earthy family has gathered on the anniversary of the Pazinski patriarch’s passing to have a back yard dinner and to remember, celebrate and honor their father’s memory.

The eldest son, Eddie (Seth Thygesen), has joined the Army and is preparing to embark for active duty in Vietnam, while at the same time he is torn by the conflict of balancing the realities of war against his love for his country and his love for his young expectant wife, Maureen (Meryn MacDougall) and their first baby. His younger brother, Rudy (David Beal), is attending seminary and is still seriously considering joining the Priesthood, all while thinking long and hard as to what his joining the Priesthood will mean on the most personal of levels to him and his family. On one hand, as a staunch Catholic, he firmly believes that to commit murder, even in the act of killing an enemy, is one of the greatest of mortal sins. He cannot envision his patriotic brother joining his high school friends and buddies in the killing fields of Asia, but he knows his brother and believes that Eddie’s motivations are highly honorable. Their sister, Annie (Andrea Snow), is trying to repress her anger and frustration with a marriage that has not turned out anything at all as she envisioned it. Secretly, she wants another chance at love but in large part, is trapped by the religious doctrines and edicts of Catholicism. Young Maureen (Eddie’s wife) is a sexual being, much in love and much in lust, and certainly not ashamed to express it. Her happiness with Eddie is a thorn in Annie’s side, but no one knows exactly why Maureen is so unhappy with Annie. The widow, Ellen Pazinski (Barbara Grant), still runs the tavern in the same building below the apartment where she and her children have lived for years. Her husband’s former business partner, Walter (Morgan Mackay), has continued to work in the bar, working with Mrs. Pazinski, to assure continuity and stability and income for the family. Walter, we learn, is also a widower, and perhaps his relationship with Mrs. Pazinski might even be maturing into something more than just an ongoing business partnership. Last, but not least, is the youngest son, Georgie (Eric Inman), who has developmental abnormalities and intellectual disabilities, but is loved and cared for by the entire family.

As the family prepares for a family memorial dinner, the family and the world are following closely on the television and radio, the progress of the men in the Apollo spacecraft as it hurtles through space, orbiting the moon and preparing to place mankind on the lunar surface for the first time. Equally important, the collective decisions made by this family this evening in this simple family back yard gathering, will also break new ground for this family. It is a time of great triumph, of progress and a time for a leap of faith, for both the Pazinskis and the whole world around them.

You may remember the director’s name, Richard Elliott, from somewhere in the archipelago of offshore theatrical directors, as Mr. Elliott, the former theatrical director of the Willows Theatre, has floated back to the main land, to the main stage, to once again tease and please us with his excellent directing skills. Richard is currently a teacher at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona. Guest Director Elliott has pulled together a terrific cast and has mined every nuance of gold from this little family gold mine. Dudzick has delivered an excellent sequel as rich, if not more rich than the original.

This outstanding, thought-provoking play, “King O’ the Moon” , continues Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with matinees on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m., now through July 17th. The Theater is located in the Willows Shopping Center, next door to the REI outfitting store, at 1975 Diamond Boulevard, in Concord, California. To purchase tickets, call 798-1300 or visit the Willows Website at for more information.

Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" captured everyone's attention in the Starlight Theater in Orinda this past weekend!

Earlier in the article I mentioned in passing that the Starlight Theater in Orinda closed this weekend with their lively production of “The Mousetrap” by Agatha Christie. Under the direction of Geotty Chapple, this long time theatrical jewel as found new heights of fun, silliness and suspense. I was unable to attend this show when it first opened due to my having to make a trip to Southern California to see a long time friend who is very ill. This is a great little outdoor community theater that puts on some very entertaining theater and this production was no exception.

Even though this production has completed its run, I wish to mention several aspects just to show my appreciation to a cast who worked very hard to deliver a show that was obviously enjoyed by all (from the applause and handshakes with actors after the show). The story takes place in a rural English community north of London, where a recently married couple take an inherited country home, Monkswell Manor, and courageously convert it into a guest inn. The Ralstons, Mollie (Babette Bilger) and Giles (Mark Barry), find themselves up to their elbows in highly suspect if not intriguing and interesting guests on their very first night as guest house keepers. Sergeant Trotter (Malcolm Cowler), a local constable; Miss Casewell (Kelly Hansen); Mr. Paravincini (Al Guaraglia); Mrs. Boyle (Marian Simpson), Major Metcalf (David Weiner) and last but not least, Ken Sollazzo plays the highly excitable, eccentric, slightly loony, artistic but loveable architect, Christopher Wren. Everyone was fun, except Mrs. Boyle, who was intended by the author to be the worst pain in the derriere ever created, and Marian Simpson played the part perfectly. One of the guests is a murderer and to the tune of Three Blind Mice, the victims start falling, one by one. It’s lots of fun!

This Agatha Christie play began life as a radio show in 1952 and before the year was out, it had been converted by Christie into what was to become the longest running play in theatrical history, having now completed over 23,074 consecutive performances in the West End of London alone. If you have never seen this excellent play, keep it in mind, because it is constantly being redone in someone’s theater near you.

I will keep you posted as I receive information on future productions in this little theater, hopefully, before the last act!!! The Orinda Starlight Village Players perform in the Orinda Community Center outside Amphitheater located at #26 Orinda Way, across the street from the Rite Aid Pharmacy and the Orinda Post Office and adjacent to the Orinda Library and Community Park. Call 528-9225 or drop a line to Geotty Chapple at P.O. Box 204, Orinda, CA 94556 for additional information.