KPBS AIRDATE: December 2, 1992
Season’s “Greetings”! The holiday theater season has officially begun. It’s been launched with a laugh at North Coast Repertory Theatre, with “Greetings!” by Tom Dudzick, a new playwright with a great sense of humor.
His plot-line is silly and predictable and his play is old-fashioned, but he’s thrown in lots of working one-liners, and everyone could use a few good guffaws, especially as we happily wave this weird year goodbye.
The scene opens aboard an aircraft, creatively portrayed, as Andy and Randi wing their way to Pittsburgh for the holidays. Andy is about to announce his engagement, to his parents, who have never met Randi.
The setup is a classic: Andy is Catholic, Randi is Jewish. But there’s an added twist: Randi is an atheist. Why anyone who’s an atheist would refer to herself as Jewish to begin with, I don’t know. But obviously, it’s a source of conflict for Phil and Emily, the blue-collar Bickersons who are Andy’s parents. It’s actually the source of the whole spiritual, dig-deep, Scrooge-of-the-nineties plot.
The centerpiece of the play turns out to be Mickey, Andy’s 30 year-old retarded brother. Mickey, who’s only been capable of saying “Wow!” or “Oh boy!” to date, suddenly comes out with the erudite clear-as-a-bell articulation of “Greetings!” And then the roller coaster ride begins, as Mickey’s body is inhabited by a hyperverbal, omniscient, New Agey kind of spirit who winds up teaching everybody a lesson about faith, religion, tolerance, choice and love.
It sounds pretty hokey, and it really is. But hey, it’s holiday time, and the laughs are good, and the performances are very good, and you should go because you’ll enjoy the show.
Casey Hogrefe and Jessica Cole are a bit on the young side for Andy and Randi, but they do seem to connect emotionally. Pat DiMeo and Joe Nesnow are wonderful as the parents, she the warm, unflappable personification of, as she’s called, ” Pittsburgh ‘s answer to June Cleaver. DiMeo brings a lot of heart and credibility to her role. So does Nesnow; he’s gruff and curmudgeonly and Archie Bunkerish, but he’s a real human being under the brash exterior.
The show is ultimately stolen by John Christopher Guth, as much for his performance as for his role. He paints a compelling and affectionate portrait of a retarded adult, with a remarkably quick-change into a supercilious twit of a Christmas spirit. It’s a terrific performance.
Marty Burnett’s homey set is just right; it’s got all the little holiday details you’d expect from a character like Emily. Olive Blakistone kept a warm fire under her direction, but it merely smolders at times; there’s an awful lot of just plain sitting going on.
But this is nit-picking, and that’s not compassionate this time of year. “Greetings!” heralds the holidays in all the right ways. It kicks off the season with a fun and sometimes even thought-provoking kick-in-the-pants. Go for it!
I’m Pat Launer, for KPBS radio.
©1992 Patté Productions Inc.