Carlo Petrucci is the padrone, the problem-solver who "sees that everything runs right."
Eldest son David manages the family-books and the Sundown Lounge. Younger son Paul manages the house.
Mother Angie directs the family's culinary operations. Jo, alias Angela, is the daughter in charge of services to customers, and doubles as "assistant director of family productions."
Janine Petrucci, Carlo's daughter-in-law, keeps track of visitors and when they are supposed to visit. The other Petrucci children -- Daniel, Diana, Gloria, Lisa and Maria -- are for hire when their services are available.
The family operation is Main Street Dinner Theater, run by the hardworking Petruccis. This season, they are staging "Forty Carats," "Catch Me if You Can," and several stock comedies.
This will be their fourth year in the Laurel Theater, which is the oldest in Prince George's County. Once the town's hub of enterainment, the theater began with Vaudeville skits in 1929, reached its peak during the World War II years, and was closed in 1976, due to film rental costs.
Carlo Petrucci says he is convinced that "only a big corporation or a large family" should attempt to start a dinner theater business.
"It is a bigger job than we thought it would be. The kids had to work so hard, when they were young and could have been out playing around."
Before the family could reopen the theater, the front of the building had to be reshaped and rows of theater seats had to be moved. Banquet rooms and new wiring were installed. An antipasto salad bar and an Italian buffet were designed and set up to serve Angie's homemade sausage and lasagna to more than 200 patrons.
"As yet, none of the clan has braved the stage," says Paul, who serves as publicist and advertising coordinator.
David Petrucci was married on the stage two years ago, and since then other wedding parties have used the stage for the ceremony and the tables for the reception.
The directing chores are handled by Fay Jacobs, who is not a member of the family but says she feels caught up in the family spirit.
"We're teaching and learning from each other.I even sit in on family meetings. I've never seen a family committed to something with such gusto and care. They're not just restaurant people, they're interested in theater and want to do what's right."
The Petruccis, seeking a change in their theater offerings, hired Jacobs and since have generated a successful subscription series. Jacobs says dinner theater is a workable business in the area, but one in which the law of "survival of the fittest" prevails. She says she knows of at least 26 dinner theaters in the Washington-Baltimore area that have opened and closed.
The family project is part of a revitalization plan for Laurel's Main Street. The street and adjacent alleys have been repaved. Brick sidewalks, modern street lamps and trees have been added -- all in an effort to woo back money-spending crowds looking for specialty shops and entertainment.
There was a twinkle in Carlo Petrucci's eye as he looked down Main Street recently at the changing surroundings. He says he senses a return of the business downtown Laurel lost to a new shopping center and traffic diversion to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and I-95 -- all nearby. The theater now draws patrons from Baltimore, and indications are that shows will be shcheduled six nights a week, rather than four.
Petrucci says that ever since he moved the family to Laurel in 1971 to run a submarine sandwich shop, he wanted to own a building on Main Street. Now he, at 53, and his special family, can enjoy the well-earned realiztion of that dream in the years to come.