The phrase “heart warming” seldom slips over my glib lips; real men don't do seasonal emotion. But, dammit, "Miracle," to compound the cliché, just tugged at my heart strings. And of course, tickled my funny bone something proper.
No kidding, this is a cleverly written, cleverly directed piece that does all the right things for the Holiday Season. It's an all-secrets-revealed play that happily strews gulps and guffaws throughout the evening.
Beth Dimon is the Nowak matriach, Clara, schlumping around her kitchen in sneakers and bobby sox, a faded house dress and wearing what looks like a cotton chamber pot on her head. She is a stubborn, bigoted Catholic who has spent her life raising three children and tending the seventeen foot statue of The Blessed Mother. It was erected by her father after his miraculous meeting in his barber shop with the Virgin Mary sixty-five years before. Quite what they discussed is not revealed. Sufficient that the statue is a money maker. Holy Knick Knacks are flogged, Holy Soup is stirred (and given to the ill and needy) and the three children, now adults, are the bored barkers for the tourists passing by.
Son Jimmy (Clay Cartland) drives a garbage truck, can fix anything, and just wants to let the world go by. And, oh no, he's dating a Jewish girl. Cynical daughter Bev (Jeni Hacker) stuffs ketchup into bottles, bowls and is dating an almost priest. And Ruth (Deborah L. Sherman), wound so tight she could screw herself into the floor, wants to perform her one woman show that would reveal The Truth.
The acting is excellent. Dimon presents a quiet, strong woman who simply struggles through life. Quiet, too, is Cartland, secure in himself and warmly supportive of his family. Sherman and Hacker are far broader on the stage, and rightly so, for this "Miracle on South Division Street," despite its really funny side, is a calm piece about relationships, religion and love. The broadness of Hacker and Sherman kicks things right along into the aforementioned Heart Warming mode. Well done, those women. Well done, one and all.
Tom Dudzick wrote the play, David Arisco directed it, and Tim Bennet designed the Nowack's realistically dated kitchen. With Ellis Tillman's costumes, Eric Nelson's lighting and Mitch Furman's sound.
Miracle on South Division Street runs through December 28 at
Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater
280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.
305-444-9293 - http://www.actorsplayhouse.org