If Joe Brancato has learned anything in 33 years running Penguin Rep, his charming theater in Stony Point, it’s that if something works, you stick with it.
So, for the third straight season, Brancato starts up his May-to-November season (Penguin’s 34th) with a play by Nyack’s Tom Dudzick.
In 2009, it was Dudzick’s “Our Lady of South Division Street”; last year, it was “Over the Tavern,” the playwright’s account of growing up over his father’s Buffalo bar. Both were extended by popular demand.
This year, it’s “Greetings!” opening May 20 — a work that Dudzick says was “my first good play.”
Brancato says the playwright is a good fit at the theater on Crickettown Road.
“Tom is a terrific guy and people respond to his material.”
Written in 1988, “Greetings!” is about the Gorski family and what happens when their son, Andy, brings a Jewish girlfriend, Randi, to their very Catholic Pittsburgh home at Christmastime.
It was based on Dudzick’s life: He wondered what his Buffalo family would have thought of his Jewish girlfriend. It wasn’t until much later that he brought a different Jewish girl — his future wife, Holly Caster — home to see his family.
“By that time, they had mellowed so much that it didn’t faze them at all,” the playwright says.
“Greetings!” has been produced regionally, sometimes during the holidays, sometimes not.
“I like when it’s not done at Christmastime,” Dudzick says. “It’s not a Christmas play. It’s a play that just happens to take place on Christmas Eve.”
Tom Caruso directs “Greetings!,” having helmed “Over the Tavern” at Penguin and another Dudzick play “Don’t Talk to the Actors” in Buffalo.
Dudzick says he appreciates Caruso’s realistic approach to the material.
“Even though I write comedies, they’ve gotta be based in reality,” he says. “We see eye-to-eye on most everything and he likes actors to act the way I like actors to act.”
Among the actors Caruso chose are Tony nominee Beth Fowler (“The Boy from Oz”) and Richard Kline, who is forever Larry from TV’s “Three’s Company,” and was so memorable in Penguin’s quirky “Ten Percent of Molly Snyder” a couple of seasons ago.
Brancato has nothing but praise for the two stars: “They’re so in the spirit of why I started this theater,” he says. “The work ethic is there, the passion, the humor, and they know how to handle a line.”
Penguin’s season isn’t limited to the barn in Stony Point: Brancato directs Angelo Parra’s “The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith” Off-Broadway, at St. Luke’s Theater on Restaurant Row this summer. It began life at Penguin. (Go to www.thedevilsmusic.biz for details.
Next on the mainstage is Mount Kisco playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer’s New York premiere of “Sirens,” which Brancato calls “a comedy with a punch about a midlife crisis,” July 8 through 31.
Then Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Margulies’ “Shipwrecked!” (Aug. 12 to Sept. 4) which Brancato says is in the spirit of last summer’s “Around the World in 80 Days,” about a man who returns from travels and has some explaining to do.
After that is the New York premiere of “Samuel J. and K.,” by Mat Smart, Oct. 14 through Nov. 6, about two brothers, one adopted, one not.
Outside the mainstage, there are also children’s theater offerings and Penguin’s popular “Play with Your Food” play-reading series, catered this year by Jimmy’s on Main, a new Nanuet restaurant.
“Greetings!” opens Friday, runs through June 12. 8 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 4 p.m., Saturdays; 2 p.m., Sundays. Penguin Rep, 7 Crickettown Road, Stony Point. Mainstage subscriptions start at $92 for the four plays. Individual tickets are $34, with discounts for groups of 10 or more and those 30 and under. A special reduced-priced weekday matinee performance of “Greetings!” is at 2 p.m. May 20. 845-786-2873. www.penguinrep.org.
Photo by Andrew M. Horn: Richard Kline, Beth Fowler and Jonathan Fielding star in Tom Dudzick’s “Greetings!” which on Friday opens Penguin Rep’s 34th season of theater in Stony Point.