REVIEW WRITTEN BY FRAN BURD
For 21st Century Media
The play is almost 25 years old and it’s not a household name like Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” or the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but Tom Dudzick’s comedy about Christmas, “Greetings,” ranks up there with the best of them. At least that’s what I felt when I saw Montgomery Theater’s outstanding production of this yuletide winner.
With richly developed characters Phil (Paul L. Nolan) and his wife Emily (Marcia Saunders) playing an Archie Bunker/Edith-like repartee, the laughs are strong and sharp. Good Catholics that they are, they have difficulty when their son Andy (Kevin Hoffmann) brings his Jewish atheist fiancé (Victoria Healy) for Christmas. The sparks fly as each tries to convince or explain their point of view. And they fly amidst a barrage of jokes that keep the audience laughing.
I can’t say enough about this remarkable ensemble. It’s not the story alone which drives us forward. The timing, the chemistry, the direction by director Tom Quinn is seamless. The multi-talented Saunders and Nolan bring years of experience to this family, which we quickly learn, has experienced its share of tragedy. The dimension that they and their son and his wife-to-be Randi (Healy), is complex, in the way life is complex.
Add to the picture their other son, Mickey (David Yashin), who is, to use his father’s word, retarded. It is striking to hear such a word today. But it is clear that the love of this mentally challenged young man, by the father, by the family, is dear. And the extraordinary performance by Yashin, is overwhelming. He has developed a character, so challenging, to such a degree of perfection, that while we are watching and listening to the comedic and serious main action, we are also looking at him out of the corner of our eye. This young man can barely utter sounds and a few words. He writhes across the stage with such a realistic bearing. And we cannot help but fall in love with him.
It is around Mickey, that the family is thrust into a new discussion of religion and philosophy, of grief and giving. What begins as an old fashioned tale, evolves into a rather profound work of modernism.
The set, designed by Felix Pinschey, a home in Pittsburgh, is superb. So too were the costumes (Robin I. Shane) and lighting (Jim Leitner). But to tell the truth, when all the technical things are perfect, I don’t notice them. That is because we are so immersed in these five characters. We don’t want to miss a line … and we don’t.
“Greetings” is a play that belongs on every theater goers Christmas list.
IF YOU GO
Where: Montgomery Theater, 124 Main St., Souderton.
When: Now through Dec. 7.
Info.: For ticket information, check www.montgomerytheater.org or call (215) 723-9984.