‘Greetings!’ well greeted at Pec Playhouse.
By Sue Langenberg
Pec Playhouse Theatre celebrated a holiday rousing play “Greetings!” throughout November and December.
It was Tom Dudzick’s first play that began his career with a bang. It appeared off-Broadway starring Darren McGavin. By the early ‘90s, the two-acts reached across the country to the praise of critics everywhere as a holiday comedic staple. Following this success, Dudzick put out some eight more plays, often openly poking fun at the very subjects that we are all cautioned to avoid; religion and politics.
So the play is not lighter fare where we fold our hands and noel ourselves into 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.
That was exactly the purpose of PPT director Michael Dice when he researched holiday plays beyond well-worn favorite “Christmas Carol,” his first of eleven plays that he directed for this theatre. And, indeed, “Greetings!” makes you laugh, think and ponder all that is beyond our little day-to-day box. Most of all, “…man’s love affair with fear.”
A couple from New York visits his parents in Pittsburgh. Andy Gorski was raised Catholic and Randi Stein is atheist Jewish. If that were not the initial setup for conflict, the real hilarity unfolds as his parents are most Archie Bunker-esque about their life, religion and petty conflicts within their marriage. But there’s more. If that backdrop of dysfunction is not enough, there’s another character that seems to rattle everyone’s cage of reality with the addition of Andy’s most retarded brother Mickey. He cannot speak or function properly, but somehow a Christmas miracle happens as he suddenly morphs with eloquence and profoundness beyond a level of worldly understanding.
The jaw-dropping action by actor James Castree is precisely where the suspension of disbelief occurs in this play. The other characters are shocked, but so is the audience as each articulation reaches beyond the script, beyond the seats looking on and beyond a current reality of our smallness in this world. What would he say next? And a leap of understanding might hold it’s breath until he elaborated.
Castree does a marvelous duality of two opposing characters using two distinctly diverse body languages. Well performed. Well felt, as are others that feed the frenzy of conflict. As father Phil Gorski, Ronald Pirrello is properly cankerous about his small mindedness right down to the waving of a know-it-all cane. Frequent PPT flyer Laura Wiegert fritters and serves well as the shallow appendage of the family. Ben Riddle as Andy and Erin Hannigan as Randi are well-cast to question all extremes that fly back and forth.
Set and lighting design by Arnie Ames was effective as was sound design by Glen Wiegert. Set decorator Linda Johnson with the help of props gal Pamela Smith enhanced the Archie Bunker-esqueness at the request of Dice with all the gee-gaws and doo-dads necessary for visual entertainment. It all came together in this play.
December must see at Pec Playhouse Theatre runs weekends through December 2. For more information contact (815) 239-1210, or www.pecplayhouse.org.