By Michel DeLluca
Niagara Gazette — Hal Faba has wanted to direct “Over the Tavern” for a while, so it seems fitting that the play may very well be his final directoral effort.
Faba, 84, a veteran performer in the area, was drawn to “Over the Tavern,” because of his roots in the Fruitbelt of Buffalo.
The play, written by Buffalonian Tom Dudzickk, is about a Polish Catholic family that lives over a tavern in Buffalo and, while written as a comedy, examines some of life’s biggest questions.
While Faba was raised in a German Baptist family, most of his friends were Polish Catholics and he was the leader of a Polish band in high school. While Faba’s been away from directing plays for the past few years, due to health issues, directing “Over the Tavern,” through six weeks of nightly rehearsals and the last two weekends of productions, has distracted him from the constant pain he battles in his legs and hands from neuropathy. “This play has gotten my mind off of it,” he said. “I enjoy directing it so much.”
“But, this will be my last play unless my health allows me to do more,” he said.
If it is his last production, it will be a very satisfying one. He loves his cast and the performances they’ve been giving, including one special dinner theater rendition at the new Topper Social Club on 19th Street.
From a seat in the Woodbox Theater, he described the cast members and then reenacted a scene in the play between the husband and wife, arguing over the woman in the husband’s life. Faba is deeply impressed at how well his actors do the scene.
“He says to her, ‘you’re my first, you’re my last. You’re my only,’” Faba says, using his own venerable skills to bring the lines alive. “And then they kiss,” he continued. “It’s beautiful. Just beautiful.”
In another scene, a nun berates one of their sons over his inability to learn his catechism. Faba especially enjoys that scene as well, reenacting for an interviewer the moment when Ethan Coniglio, as Rudy, says to the nun with dramatic pause, “Well, I have some questions ... “
“The play is about a Polish family living in a downtown Buffalo neighborhood, over a tavern in a very cramped apartment, in which they try to make do,” Faba explained. “It’s so real in depicting a lot of stuff that goes on in a Polish Catholic family. I call this play humorous and provocative.”
This weekend’s performances will include a special dinner theater on Saturday, to be catered by the Polish Nook Restaurant and including a Polish meal with breaded pork chops, polish sausage, chicken, sauerkraut, parsley potatoes, green beans, salad, rolls and rye bread.
For Faba, one of the founding members of the NACC, as well as a Baptist minister and a retired pastoral addictions counselor, the play of this play is it’s look at life’s biggest questions, but the real question will be whether he finds himself directing another play anytime soon. He daydreams about just a few more plays, including a musical version of “The Christmas Carol,” and the other two plays written by Dudzick.
“I’d like to look at the other two in the trilogy, maybe do them here,” he said, waving to the set that stands ready for this weekend’s closing performances. “All I can say in yeah, yeah, health, come on, hold up.”
“Over the Tavern” will close its run with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (dinner Saturday starts at 6:30 p.m.) and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
The play’s assistant director is Chris Mongielo, who also plays Ellen, the wife and mother. Along with Coniglio as Rudy, the play stars Don Batalaris as Chet, the husband and bar owner, Daniel Senn as Georgie, James Murphy as Eddie, Sami Granieri as Annie and Linda Silvestri as Sister Clarissa.
IF YOU GO • WHAT: "Over the Tavern," by Tom Dudzak • WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday. A special dinner theater will be catered by The Polish Nook at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. • WHERE: Woodbox Theater, Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, 1201 Pine Ave., Niagara Falls • MORE INFO: Call the NACC at 282-7530