Doug Shanaberger

Column Doug Shanaberger

Doug Shanaberger is an entertainment columnist for the Observer-Reporter.

Curtain calls

Little Lake’s ‘Black Tie’ commiserates with the father of the groom

November 6, 2012

If love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, Carol Lauck and the plays written by A.R. Gurney are as well matched as a chilled bottle of Dom Perignon and a champagne flute.

I’m using that simile not only because Lauck has participated in seven Gurney plays at Little Lake Theatre but also because the one she is currently directing, “Black Tie,” takes place just hours before a family wedding.

Writers usually look with a degree of sympathy, even pity, at the stressed-out father whose job is to escort his daughter down the aisle and then pay the reception bills. Not this play, which opens Thursday night. Instead, Gurney spends time commiserating with the father of the groom, one of fiction’s unsung heroes.

“I feel as though A.R. Gurney and I are old friends,” says Lauck, who either acted in or directed his “Love Letters,” “The Dining Room,” “The Cocktail Hour,” “The Middle Ages,” “Ancestral Voices” and “The Snow Ball” at Little Lake, and also appeared with Bingo O’Malley and Lenora Nemetz in “The Perfect Party” at City Theatre.

In “Black Tie,” she guides Paul Laughlin, Bruce Crocker, Tracey Taylor Perles, T.J. Firneno and Jenny Malarkey in what Charles Isherwood, a critic for The New York Times, praised as “one of this prolific writer’s most enjoyable plays, a modest but effortlessly engaging comedy about the generational shifts in the subset of humanity that Mr. Gurney has been writing about with warmth, humor and insight throughout his career.”

Maybe the warmth alone is enough to strike a nerve in Lauck, who’s been a mother of the bride on three occasions.

In the dialogue, “I keep hearing my grandparents and parents and even my own grown children’s voices as the morals and manners are discussed and displayed,” she said. “I think the audience will also relate and appreciate, especially if they’ve ever been involved in wedding activities.”

“Black Tie” runs through Nov. 24. For tickets, call the box office at 724-745-6300. And while you’re on the phone, ask about reservations for the last show of the season, “A Christmas Story.” It’s always a major hit at Little Lake, with many performances selling out prior to opening night.

Movie memories

“The moment I meet an attractive woman, I have to start pretending that I have no desire to make love to her,” says Cary Grant to Eva Marie Saint in Alfred Hitchcock’s “North By Northwest,” to which she saucily quips “What makes you think you have to conceal it?”

Hard to believe, in our modern era of anything-goes entertainment (when anything is said, too), that this exchange raised a few eyebrows in 1959.

Yes, I know – with Saint coming to town next week for a special screening of Elia Kazan’s celebrated “On the Waterfront” from 1954, I should be quoting that movie, for which she won an Academy Award as best supporting actress, not the later one. But my movie-loving geekiness leans toward Hitchcock, who cast the actress to play one of his iconic blonde temptresses.

On Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Saint joins Turner Classic Movies’ host Ben Mankiewicz for “On the Waterfront,” which also stars Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger and Leif Erickson.

It’s near the end of this movie that Brando’s Terry Malloy, in one of the all-time great monologues, says to his brother: “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am – let’s face it.”

Saint and Mankewicz are bringing “On the Waterfront” to Pittsburgh as part of TCM’s “Road to Hollywood” tour, a cinematic journey that celebrates great movies and the country’s beautifully restored movie palaces. It’s the network’s first visit to the Byham, which was known as the Fulton Theater until 1990 when the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust stepped in and brought an old relic back to life.

Although the TCM event is free, tickets are required. Just visit


Tickets for Washington Community Theatre’s fall fundraiser, Thursday at Texas Roadhouse, are still available. Visit Citizens Library or inquire at the restaurant, where the party begins at 11 a.m.

Then Nov. 16 brings WCT’s first production of “Nunsense,” which runs for three performances at Julian’s Banquet Hall. Kathleen Leadbitter, Lorry McMahon, Megan Pierson, Marsha Owens and Melissa Voytek star in Dan Goggin’s popular satire about five nuns who turn to show business when they need to raise a lot of cash in a little bit of time.



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