The authenticity and affection represented in Through the Eyes of a Child are conspicuously absent in the disastrously wrong-headed Over the Tavern. Tom (Greetings) Dudzick's Catholic-bashing play concerns the pub-owning Pazinski family. Set in the 1950s, it's neither a believable version of the era nor an insightful look into any of the areas it purports to tackle, which include the oppressiveness of a parochial-school education, the stresses of being working-class and how amusing it is when an autistic child yells out "Shit!" at inopportune moments during the dinner hour.
Director Terence Lamude, who has been barnacled to other productions of this work, has the Rep actors play everything for 78-rpm yucks -- which is fine, if you've got Neil Simon's laugh lines -- but Dudzick's writing makes the very fine and joyously venal Malcolm in the Middle read like Eugene O'Neill in terms of psychological insight. Older brother Eddie vacillates between Lumpy Rutherford bullying and being a tortured artist; sister Ellen can't decide whether she's a Twinkie-munching good girl or an S-L-U-T in the making; and younger son Rudy, a wise-beyond-his-years moppet, regularly clashes with crusty Sister Clarissa over catechism. He threatens to sue the church during one of these tiresome dialogues -- hello, is this '90s topicality rearing up? Not the first time, and surely not the last. But speaking of which, the last we saw of Sister Clarissa, as we made our leave at the end of Act 1, was that old soul supine on the floor of the family kitchen, so shocked was she by the outrageous goings-on chez Pazinski. Of course, Rudy knows enough to slip her a reviving nitroglycerin. Would that play repair were as simple.
Over the Tavern continues through April 14.