Angela Kay Miller (Randi), Stephen Blackwell (Andy), Richard Payton (Mickey), Jan Cartwright (Emily) and Henry Nelson (Phil) share a joke at their family holiday meal in Two Muses Theatre's production of "Greetings!" Photo: Diane Hill

Gutsy 'Greetings!' Tackles Sensitive Subject

By Dana Casadei

Religion is a topic that's recommended to avoid when, say, going on a first date or meeting a significant other's parents for the first time. "Greetings!" at Two Muses Theatre isn't one to take that advice, and the result is a very courageous play that breaks down certain barriers.

Tom Dudzick's show, directed by Barbie Weisserman, will make you question many things throughout its two-hour production, including faith, family and the ever-widening generation gap between parent and child. The plot may seem simple, but like any family, its underbelly is anything but.

The show is about the Gorski family and what happens when the eldest son, Andy (Stephen Blackwell, who brings a Jimmy Stewart quality to the stage) brings home a girl, Randi (Angela Kay Miller), whose beliefs are quite different from the Gorski's, especially father Phil (Henry Nelson).

Nelson is one of two to watch for during the production, with a voice that fills the theater. Phil is a stubborn man, unlikeable and opinionated about everything, but shows hints of warmth and humanity, especially in regards to Mickey (Richard Payton). He's a man that's stuck in his ways and doesn't enjoy change, something he seems to fear more than anything else. Nelson has a few moments that stick out, but there's one in Act Two where Phil is talking to God, and that takes the cake. If you don't tear up you might want to get your ticker checked out. It's a scene with much emotion, and it says so much about who Phil is and why he acts this way.

Now for Payton. Where do I start about my love for Payton's Mickey? Mickey, as his mother (Jan Cartwright) puts it, is a "special" boy who isn't like the rest. He doesn't say much, except for "Wow" and "Oh, boy," and has the mentality of a child. Payton's portrayal is touching and, well, kind of perfect. This is the type of role that gets critics' attention, and for all the right reasons.

The setting description in the playbill simply says, "The Gorski household, nestled in a working class neighborhood of Pittsburg, PA." That description sums up what set designer Bill Mandt has built. It's a house with semi-worn furniture and one that looks like it has been lived in - and that's a good thing. If Mandt had put all new furniture and elaborate modern pieces it wouldn't have worked; it wouldn't have been believable.

I also have to give some credit to Weisserman, who was in charge of properties. Those little details say so much about this family and their beliefs before a word is said. There are crosses, photos of the family, and ones of Mary and Jesus, and a nativity set. There's also a board with past Christmas cards, and a variety of books along the bookshelves, which doesn't include the Bible - since that is currently holding up the cookbooks in the kitchen.

"Greetings!" is the last show in Two Muses' first year in production, and it's a gutsy move for the company. It takes shots at every religion under the sun and New Age philosophy, but I'm glad they did it. With choices like this, the company is one that will hopefully keep the surprises coming for years to come.

REVIEW:

'Greetings!'

Two Muses Theatre at Barnes & Noble Booksellers Theatre, 6800 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield. Friday-Sunday through Dec. 16. $15-18. 248-850-9919. http://www.TwoMusesTheatre.org

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