Greetings! | St. Louis Actors’ Studio

play_greetings.jpgWhat began with a simple enough premise—somewhat estranged son brings his New York fiancé home for the holidays to meet his family—soon became so much more, not necessarily in a good way.

 

 

 

Written by Tom Dudzick
Directed by Milt Zoth, Artistic Director
The Gaslight Theater,
St. Louis
through Dec. 23

Greetings! is the second offering in the St. Louis Actors’ Studio’s inaugural season and, judging from the full house on opening night, the troupe is off to a solid start. Housed in the new Gaslight Theater in the Central West End, the artistic collective has a professional yet modest space and plenty of acting talent.

The cast’s chops were on full display during this performance. My only complaints lay in the play itself, which couldn’t decide if it was a family holiday comedy-drama, a fish-out-of-water introduction, a religious debate, or the voice of reason from beyond.

What began with a simple enough premise—somewhat estranged son brings his New York fiancé home for the holidays to meet his family—soon became so much more, not necessarily in a good way. An initial, somewhat awkward scene of Andy (Tyler Vickers) and Randi (Sara Renschen) on the plane gave way to the Gorski household, including mom Emily (Ruth Heyman), dad Phil (John Contini) and mentally retarded brother Mickey (a very marvelous Christopher Hickey). The trouble is this is the first time the family has met Randi; the fact that they are a God-fearing family and she is both Jewish and an atheist is ripe for trouble.

Trouble is, when the relevations begin, rather than taking on a square-peg-in-a-round-hole comedic feel, the play promptly delves into religious zealot territory. Phil, it turns out, is a very opinionated and religious (you would not be faulted for saying bigoted) man whose ill temper and frequent escapes to the beer in his basement maintain a constant level of tension in the household. Emily, meanwhile, is clinging to the desperate hope that grown son Mickey has uttered a word—"Greetings"—beyond his usual vocabulary of "Oh boy!" and "Uh oh."

Just when the espousing of religion makes things nice and uncomfortable for everyone (audience included), Greetings! takes a drastic 180 by introducing a "miracle" in the form of spiritual enlightenment, personal reevaluation, the revelation of family truths and a belief in the spirit of Christmas.

Frankly, it’s all a bit much to take in one two-hour sitting, though the actors certainly do their best to pull it off. Special recognition goes to Hickey as the mentally challenged son; and despite his character’s clichés, Contini breathes life—and believable anger—into the father figure. A couple of updated lines to bring the play to current day are rendered unbelievable by the constant ’80s overtones (i.e., the gimmick of having Randi use the Gorski family landline to make a call; what, a New York girl with no cell phone?), and a few awkward lines and phrasings ("This world is pretty stinko") stand out for their unbelievability.

St. Louis Actors’ Studio is billing Greetings! as something special for the holidays. Truly, it’s not what you’re expecting; the fact that its action takes place during the holidays is merely extraneous. | Laura Hamlett

Greetings! continues through Dec. 23. Performances at The Gaslight Theater (358 N. Boyle Ave., St. Louis, Mo. 63108) Thurs., Fri. & Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 adults, $15 students/seniors. Advance tickets are encouraged, as seating is limited. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 314-458-2978 or visit http://www.stlas.org/.

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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