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‘Wonder Years’ Dad Has Wonderful Treat

Sun., Jan. 22, 1995

Maybe you can’t place the name Dan Lauria, but many people will recognize the face.

Lauria played the father in “The Wonder Years” for all of its five-year run.

His face, and the rest of him, too, will be on stage at the Interplayers Ensemble tonight at 7:30 p.m. in a special concert reading of “Men In Suits,” a new play by Jason Milligan.

This is our chance to see a play that may hit the big screen in the next year or three. Lauria did a reading of it in Los Angeles a few months ago, and Miramax took an option out on it that very same night.

Interplayers has it on the small stage tonight because Lauria made a commitment to regional theaters long ago.

“A lot of us (actors) have made a commitment that, wherever we go to work, we will get involved with the local theater and help them out,” said Lauria, who has been in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane for the last two months as co-star of the TV show, “Amazing Grace.” “So I got hold of Interplayers and I said, ‘How about a reading?”’

He said he just happened to have a play handy because he runs a playreading program that runs every Monday night in an L.A. theater. The idea is to give up-and-coming playwrights and screenwriters a place for their work to be heard by the Hollywood establishment. Boy, does their work get heard.

“The theater holds 400 people, and we fill it up every time, no problem,” said Lauria.

That’s partly because it’s a good place for studios to discover new material, and partly because Lauria gets some big names to do the readings.

“Peter Falk and Christian Slater did one, and we had to turn 1,000 people away,” said Lauria.

And when Lauria first did “Men In Suits” in L.A., his co-stars were Falk and Joe Mantegna.

Actually, Lauria and Mantegna would prefer that Miramax not make a movie of it yet, because they want to do a full-fledged stage production first, with Mantegna directing and Falk, Tony Danza and Charles Durning in the cast.

And after that, they’d be happy for Hollywood to grab it for the screen.

“I’m hoping that it will be the first film that Joe Mantegna gets to direct,” said Lauria.

He said “Men In Suits” is perfect for this Interplayers reading, because “it’s a very funny play, very New York,” and it also has a serious twist at the end. The other performers also will be from the cast of “Amazing Grace.”

Tickets for this benefit reading will be $12 and $10, available by calling 455-PLAY. Tickets will also be available at the door. Interplayers is at S174 Howard.

Meet Gus, the killer pimp

Although Lauria is best known from “The Wonder Years,” he has a long and rich background in theater, movies and TV.

It began in college in Connecticut, where he was studying to be a teacher and football coach.

“I was telling a joke on the football field, and an acting teacher came by and said, ‘How would you like to be an actor?’ They needed a Caliban for ‘The Tempest.’ That was it. I did one performance and said, ‘This beats working.”’

After a stint in the Marine Corps, he went to New York and did a lot of off-Broadway work, including the lead role in “Other People’s Money.” He also worked on the daytime soap, “One Life to Live,” playing the timeless role of Gus, the killer pimp.

He then did episodes of a number of TV shows, including “Cagney and Lacey,” and he appeared in the movies “Stakeout” and “Without a Trace.”

Then he landed “The Wonder Years” job.

“To have writing like that, and to work with people like Fred Savage and Alley Mills, was a wonderful experience.”

In “Amazing Grace,” he plays “an old boyfriend (of the Patty Duke character) who is a lawyer and does legal work for her church.”

An ‘Amazing’ airdate

The airdate for “Amazing Grace” is still vaguely listed as March or April, so we asked Lauria for some inside information.

“I don’t know when it will be,” he said. “The entertainment section of your paper will know far before the actors do.”

We hope that his confidence in us is not misplaced.

The curse on Connie

Now we know why Connie Chung got herself into trouble for her recent Mom Gingrich story.

It’s the curse.

Spokane’s best-known Gypsy, Jimmy Marks, tells us that he put a Gypsy curse on Chung because of the negative story that appeared on “Eye to Eye With Connie Chung” last year. The story was about Marks and his legal dispute with the Spokane police.

Marks said that to enact the curse, he needed a picture that he could take up “to the mountain.” So he sent away for a picture of Chung. She sent one back, autographed “To the Marks family, with love.”

I’ll bet she’s sorry she ever did that.

“Poor Connie,” said Marks. “She’s got the problem because of the Gypsies. There’s no doubt in my mind that it works.”

Spokane on Bravo

The Bravo channel was here last October to shoot a 10-minute segment on the arts in Spokane for its “Artsbreak.”

The finished product, “Artsbreak: Spokane,” will premiere on Bravo (channel 65 on Cox Cable) on Jan. 29 at 9:15 p.m. It will then be used as often as 25 times a year for the next three years as a filler between programs.

There will be a sneak preview of the show on Monday at 5 p.m. at a VIP reception in the Chase Gallery in Spokane City Hall.

Look for a mini-review of it in this space next week.

Ivins alert

This just in: Molly Ivins, newspaper columnist and best-selling author, will speak at Gonzaga University’s Martin Centre on April 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Be on the lookout for ticket information.

Summer musicals

The Carrousel Players of the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre have announced their summer lineup of musicals: “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” “HMS Pinafore,” “Funny Girl” and “Show Boat.”

The big surprise in that list is “HMS Pinafore.” It’s the first professional production of Gilbert and Sullivan we’ve had in these parts for a long time.

For season ticket information, call 1-800-4-CDA-TIX, or in Coeur d’Alene, 667-0254.

Don’t miss Jeeves

I would be remiss as a member of The Wodehouse Society, dedicated to the English humorist P.G. Wodehouse, if I didn’t remind you about new episodes of “Jeeves and Wooster,” tonight at 8 p.m. on “Masterpiece Theatre” on KSPSChannel 7.

This is truly funny stuff. It will continue for the next three Sundays.

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