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Miracle on South Division Street
a Holiday Comedy
CATEGORY :
by Tom Dudzick

COMPANY : Live Arts Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Belfry Playhouse (inside Norcross Presbyterian Church) [WEBSITE]
ID# 5186

SHOWING : December 01, 2017 - December 16, 2017

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Meet the Nowaks of Buffalo, NY. Clara and her three grown kids have always known they were special, ever since the miraculous night in 1942 when the Blessed Mother appeared to Grandpa in his barbershop! Since then, the neighborhood has looked upon the Nowaks’ 20-foot commemorative shrine as a beacon of hope and faith amidst the urban rubble. And now daughter Ruth unveils her plan to write and star in a one-woman show about the family miracle so the “whole world will know!” However, as her plans for theatrical immortality unfold, the entire family’s faith is shaken to the very core when a deathbed confession causes the family legend to unravel. The results are heartfelt and hilarious.

Recommended for Audiences ages 10+ for language (infrequent)
Run Time: 2 hours with one 15 minute intermission.


CAST & CREW LIST
Producer Kerry Fetter
Set Foreman Troy Jones
Director Becca Parker
Assistant Director Edward Thompson
Properties/Scenic Painting LaDonna Allison
Costume Design Bethany Bing
Run Crew/Scenic Painting Kat Davridge
Costume Crew Dawn Davridge
Sound Design Andre Eaton
Scenic Painting JJ Jones
Scenic Painting Xander Jones
Set/Lighting/Sound Design Becca Parker
Scenic Painting Michael Parker
Scenic Painting TJ Sanson
Beverly Alison Lee Brady
Jimmy Andre Eaton
Stage Manger/Scenic Painting/Program/Pos Meredith Jones
Ruth Alyson Rubin
Clara Minnie Tee
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REVIEWS

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A Christmas Miracle
by playgoer
Sunday, December 17, 2017
3.5
"Miracle on South Division Street" centers around the story of a very Polish Catholic Christmas Eve miracle in Buffalo, New York. It ends up being neither very Catholic nor very miraculous, but it’s entertaining throughout. Tom Dudzik’s play throws in lots of laugh-out-loud lines along with a lot of heart and a number of plot twists that bend the play in different directions as it goes along.

Live Arts’ production takes place on a very nice set designed by director Becca Parker. The refrigerator and stove and sink and counter and cabinets make it clear that this is a slightly old kitchen, reinforced by the presence of a round table with matching, worn chairs around it. An archway up center leads to the rest of the house, with a closet stage right of it and a decorated Christmas tree between the closet and a door. Aside from the area above the cabinets and at the sink, the kitchen wall is stenciled beautifully with a multi-colored floral pattern. A curtain far stage left at the sink represents a window. It’s a lovely, workable set.

It can be difficult to block action in a space that has audience on three sides. I can’t truly judge how successfully Ms. Parker has navigated the challenges, since I had wonderful views of the action at all times from my seat in the center section. With a lot of dialogue occurring with four people seated around the kitchen table, I imagine some others might have had obstructed views or views of backsides for portions of the show. The last moment of the play has a joke coming from the printed title on the cover of a book, and that moment is clearly blocked to ensure the entire audience can see the title, so blocking has definitely taken the audience configuration into account.

All four cast members play their roles with intense concentration on their characters. There are a lot of funny lines, but they’re all delivered in character, with no self-consciousness "winks" at the audience. This is an ensemble show, and the actors are pretty evenly matched, although André Eaton, as son Jimmy, is a little louder and broader than his siblings, and pacing often seems a bit off around dialogue involving Minnie Tee, as the mother. Alyson Rubin plays Ruth with more low-key, self-effacing sincerity than might be expected of a young woman eager for a career in the theatre, and Alison Brady, as her bowling sister Beverly, is less crude than the character can be played, but all the performances work.

The racial mix of the cast adds an interesting spin to the play. (We have a black son, a white mother, and white sisters.) Since a strong underpinning of the mother’s character is Catholic devoutness whose intolerance for other religions borders on anti-Semitism, it’s interesting that religion is a bone of contention in this family, while race is not. It also turns out that sexual orientation is not, so the unorthodox mix of conservative and liberal views in this one family is almost refreshing.

Ms. Parker’s lighting design doesn’t call for much other than general lighting, and Bethany Bing’s costume design doesn’t call for anything out of the ordinary, but both designs work well within the context of this production. Sound design, by Ms. Parker and Mr. Eaton, also works well, although the sounds of cell phone ringing seem to come from the audience more than from the stage, leading to a momentary sinking feeling that some audience member has ignored the pre-show request to turn off noise-making devices. LaDonna Allison’s props are impressive.

"Miracle on South Division Street" is not the world’s most stereotypically Christmas-y show, with only a couple of lines indicating that the action is occurring at this time of the year. But its message of family togetherness and a merging of religious traditions warms the heart, which is just the sort of thing a successful holiday show should do. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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