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Dan Lauria: Dinner With The Boys

By Gary Wien


This article was originally designed to be read in the September 2014 issue of
New Jersey Stage magazine. To read it in its original format, click here

Dan Lauria says he doesn't like to look back, but it's hard not to imagine his old friends Charles Durning, Jack Klugman, Dom Del Louise, and Peter Falk during "Dinner With The Boys", a new play Lauria wrote and stars in at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. The play, which was originally written with those four actors in mind, runs until October 5 and is one of the hottest theater tickets in the state. Nearly every performance was sold out before the run began, a first for the company.

Best known for his work as the father on "The Wonder Years", his stage acting resume is very impressive, and even more so when you examine his passion for doing new plays instead of revivals. He's famous for saying, he doesn't do plays by dead white guys. What many people don't know is he not only has an MFA in playwriting, but originally came to New York City to be a playwright. In fact, Charles Durning, who became a father figure for Lauria, helped him get his first production mounted on Off-Broadway in just a few years. The experience helped him land an agent and his acting career took off. It's one that has landed him roles in films, television and even Broadway. So, why is he holding the world premiere of his play at the tiny playhouse in Long Branch, NJ?

It's because the theater shares the same mission as he does.

"It feels great to be here with Gabe and SuzAnne Barabas," said Lauria. "Gabe's one of the few people who ever listened to me. I told him years ago when they first got started that no theater ever made a name by doing a revival and 99% of the plays he produces are originals… For me, it feels great to be here… to be able to literally have a place where you can try and fail, and go back and try again, until you get the play to where you want it to be.

"In the first public reading [of "Dinner With The Boys"], Peter wasn't there and I read his part, but we read it again at Peter's house for a very limited audience and it was quite an experience," continued Lauria. "But then Dom got sick and so did Peter, and they both passed. I didn't feel right about sending it out. When Charley and Jack passed a couple of years ago, the first person I thought of was Gabe. I said if you want to do this, let's make a time and I'll turn down work and come over there and we'll see if we can get it to work."

In "Dinner With The Boys", Dan plays Charlie, an aging mobster who lives as a "ghost" with Dom in a New Jersey home as the pair await their punishment from Big Anthony, Jr. for failing to do a hit they were ordered to do. It's a very funny comedy which shows a different side of mobsters - from Charlie's work in the garden to Dom's culinary wonders in the kitchen - and a story that truly believes you are what you eat.

"It's deliberately written as an old fashioned play," explained Lauria. "There are two acts. Even with an intermission it runs less than two hours. It's one set and there's very little special effects. I'm tired of seeing movies being put on stage and telling everybody it's a play. This is a play. It's something I hope other regional theaters will do because it's easy to produce."

The cast includes Ray Abruzzo who played "Little Carmine Lupertazzi" in the Sopranos, Morris "Moe" Rosenbaum, Richard Zavaglia, and Lauria. It's directed by Frank Megna. Lauria says that everyone was involved in adding little bits and pieces to the script and he was completely fine with that even if it seemed a bit odd to others in the crew.

"I'm working as an actor would write, not as a writer would write," he said. "When an actor comes up and says can you change this or here's a good joke, we try it and we actually do it. I don't sit back and say no, it's not what I wrote. I'd say about 8 out of every 10 suggestions the director and the other actors have given me are in the script… and I'm going to take full credit for it - they know that!"

Lauria has been following the advice Charles Durning gave him long ago: never go a year without doing a play. He's been able to follow that advice throughout his career, even while starring in "The Wonder Years" and his current show "Sullivan & Sons" on TBS. He says if you count acting, writing, and directing, "Dinner With The Boys" is his 60th production. The resume included shows off-Broadway and in regional theaters, but never on Broadway until the past few years in which he's been in "A Christmas Story" and "Lombardi", both times originating a role.

"I had a lot of offers to do Broadway over the years, but they were all revivals," said Lauria. "So, to me, to be on Broadway three years in a row with a brand new play that I originated… that was the ultimate of my career. Between Lombardi and A Christmas Story, Sullivan & Sons and now this with The Wonder Years on DVD, I've stuck around so long I'm new again!"



For more by this author, click here






Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.


Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
"The Spitfire Grill" and Caitlin Geisser Return To Their Roots
“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!










Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


LECTURE

Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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