LEWISTON -Is “flawless” too strong a word to use in describing the current production of “The Last Mass atSt. Casimir’s” at The Public Theatre?

Probably, but when a play is so thoroughly enjoyable, that’s how you want to remember it.

The five members of the Pazinski family in Buffalo, N.Y., come alive on the local stage through some excellent and insightful performances. It’s about the members of a close and loving family that is forced to deal with a critical life-changing challenge.

It’s no wonder that playwright Tom Dudzik is a hero in his hometown of Buffalo. His trilogy about the Pazsinski family earned him the nickname of “the Catholic Neil Simon” with his autobiographical stories from youth to manhood. This play is the third chapter of his working-class family that mirrors a lot that could be found in the L-A area of some years ago. The city is in decline, the family’s church is closing, and Chet’s Bar and Grill, the tavern once run by their father, has been sold to a Vietnamese family.

Eddie, Rudy and Annie, the still-bickering siblings have returned to convince their mother that she can no longer handle the care of their 30-year-old developmentally-challenged brother whose five-year-old mental capacity is complicated by the on-set of senile dementia. On top of that, the family becomes snowbound in the record blizzard of 1977.

The performance of each actor is outstanding.

David Mason, as child-like Georgie, captures every nuance of this difficult characterization. He brings genuine warmth and pathos to the man whose focal points in life are potato chips, Dairy Queen and a G.I. Joe doll.

The role of Rudy, the eternal jokester who is aiming for a writing career in New York City, is developed steadily and believably by Andrew Cruse.

Rudy is the playwright’s alter ego and voice.

Sara Schabach plays extra-excitable Annie. Her bloody-nose, sprained ankle entrance illustrates how she confronts just about all of life and her place in God’s plan, though she also has a surprising level-headed side.

Eddie is the strong, no-nonsense brother who went to Vietnam. Matthew Delamater, who has played numerous roles on area community stages, makes his professional debut at The Public Theatre as Eddie, and he succeeds in depicting a take-charge attitude that is eventually seen to cover a wonderful sensibility.

Ellen, the mother, is played by Maura O’Brien. She insists she can continue caring for Georgie in a new home, but deep down she comes to the inevitable realization that her children have her best interests at heart as she faces a difficult decision.

Following the Sunday matinee on May 3, about three dozen members of the audience stayed for a discussion with the cast and director Janet Mitchko.

Several commented on the attention to detail by the actors and the set designers. One person noticed an authentic wooden beer bottle crate that bore the name Trommer’s, a beer that was popular in Buffalo in the 1970s.

The Public Theatre presents many good comedies and many good dramatic plays each season. Audiences of “The Last Mass at St. Casimir’s” will find this play has excellent elements of both types of theater.

Remaining performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 7; at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 8-9; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 10.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and students, and there is a group rate of $14 for ten or more.

For tickets, call the box office at 782-3200.


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