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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






The Panto Company Presents "Beauty and the Beast" at The Newton Theatre
(NEWTON, NJ) -- When you think of a dying rose and a clock, candlestick andteapot who talk... you are thinking Beauty and the Beast. One of this season's spellbinding family shows from The Panto Company USA stars Dame Dotty Potty, Loopy Louie, Gaston, Belle and of course The Beast!  The company brings their show to The Newton Theatre on Sunday, March 3 at 3:00pm.
La Strada Ensemble Theater Presents "La Bella Familia" by Edwin Sanchez
(OCEAN GROVE, NJ) -- La Strada Ensemble Theater presents La Bella Familia by Edwin Sanchez from January 18-20.  The play deals with a Puerto Rican hit woman and the gentlest man in the world move next door to the neighbors from hell and everyone learns, the hard way, that family comes first.
Art House Productions Presents "The Passion Project" by Reid Farrington
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions presents the unique theatrical experience that is Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project performed by Laura K. Nicoll.  Eight performances will take place from February 21st to March 3rd. The Passion Project is a 30 minute vibration between performance, film, and installation. Carl Th.Dreyer’s 1928 immortal masterpiece, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is the main narrative along with the history behind the making of the film, a discussion with a Danish archivist, the story of making this project, as well as Joan’s own story –– her trial, torture, and execution. The Passion Project explodes the film into the three dimensions; placing the audience inside the film, sitting next to Joan, subjecting them to the relentless rhythm of 35 mm film projection.
4th Wall Theatre Presents "Intimate Apparel" by Lynn Nottage
(MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- 4TH WALL THEATRE continues its 22nd season with a one weekend run of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel.  The show will be presented as part of the Black History Month celebrations on February 22, 23, and 24 at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, NJ.  The show is directed by 4th Wall Executive Director Gwen Ricks-Spencer.
East Lynne Theater, the Henry Sawyer Inn, and Twin Gable's Inn present Murder Mystery Weekends
(CAPE MAY, NJ) -- The award-winning East Lynne Theater Company, with The Henry Sawyer Inn and Twin Gables Inn, present Murder Mystery Weekends on February 15-16, March 8-9, March 22-23, March 29-30, and April 5-6. Participants can test their crime-solving skills while staying in one of these lovely Bed & Breakfasts. East Lynne Theater Company's Murder Mystery Weekends were cited among one of the top five in the country by "AM NY."  


It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(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 now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.  It’s a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.  On stage, we’ve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props – piano, men’s shoes, sheet metal – to create the audio effects for the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Betsy Aidem Puts A Woman's Touch On George Street Playhouse's "A Doll's House, Part 2"
Betsy Aidem is a veteran actress you might have seen on Broadway. Or maybe on an episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” Or maybe on the big screen last year in “The Greatest Showman.” But over the next few weeks in New Brunswick, Aidem is adding a brand-new section to her résumé — by helming a sequel (of sorts) to a classic play that’s more than 100 years old.






Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


MUSIC


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


THEATRE

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


KIDS

AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

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