‘Greetings’ greeted at Winneshiek.
By Sue Langenberg
It’s the 89th season for Winneshiek Playhouse and the nation’s oldest continuous volunteer amateur theater runs holiday production “Greetings.” It’s a comedy with a twist; major twist and multi-layered as the action moves on.
This was Tom Dudzick’s first creation that catapulted his career as a playwright. It appeared off-Broadway starring Greg Edelman and the late actor Darren McGavin. By the early ‘90s, the two-acts reached across the country to the praise of critics everywhere as a holiday comedic staple right up there with “A Christmas Carol.” Following this success, Dudzick put out some eight more plays, often openly testing our politically correctness at the very subjects that we are all cautioned to avoid including religion and politics.
So in two acts, the play is not lighter fare where we fold our hands and noel ourselves into a haze of polyester appreciation. It’s better than that. All in the space of Christmas Eve trappings, five cast members take family dysfunction into new heights with oppositional characteristics and, above all, suspension of disbelief.
The setting is a middle class home in Pittsburgh stocked with characters that could be straight out of “All in the Family.” The Gorski marriage is a decades’ old standoff where husband Phil is staunchly against a new-fangled world and wife Emily dizzies herself into petty chores and doesn’t listen. These interactions could be enough to run away with the entire comedy. But there’s more; the younger grown son Mickey is profoundly “retarded,” as his politically incorrect father labels, with few words in his awkward vocabulary.
The next layer of comedic action is when cynical older brother Andy brings home his fiancée to this household that hasn’t functioned properly in decades. The couple’s citified New York sophistication and liberal values drive father Phil yet deeper into his religious box of rules.
The main detour in this situation is when out of the blue, a mentally-challenged Mickey articulates the word “Greetings” to the stunned family and goes on paragraph after paragraph with depth and philosophy over and above everyone’s intellect. Suspension of belief takes over from there. Like watching a tennis match, one looks right and left to see who says what next. Moreoever, analysis of life takes on a new face.
Most ably directed by theatre-savvy Vicki Hooper, the action is already under her belt having performed Emily with husband John Webb some years ago at Highland Community College. She easily handles the dynamics of the action and endless details to affect the success of script.
Martha Hoefer as Emily is perfectly cast as the scatter-brained house person, fussing and serving her way through life as is Mark Joseph as husband Phil who barks his crabbiness and close-mindedness throughout. Sam Wool as older brother Andy is marvelously cynical as the script demands and performs a delightful contrast to the rest of the characters. Something about Wool’s physical stance convincingly exudes his opposition to the household. Mary Bridgeland as Fiancée Randi is a quintessential addition as the youthful free-thinker in this environment. She aspires to a future in the theatre, part by part, and enjoys every moment.
Most notable player James Castree as pivotal character Mickey also brings this particular role that he had already performed at Pec Playhouse Theatre in 2012. He expresses the duality of extremes within Mickey with a powerful spirit of presence. He comments about the opportunity to relive a role that while he is most familiar with the play, each production holds a different spin of energy and cast.
“Greetings” is a must-see, must-muse and must enjoy at Winneshiek Playhouse, 228 W. Clark St. that runs December 5, 6, and 11, 12, 13. Tickets available (815) 232-7023 or email@example.com. ###