by Lisa Steiner
Now that Thanksgiving is over, I’m starting to dip my toe into the Christmastime pool, and there’s no better way to do that than to get to a theater. I steered my sled to Community Players in Beatrice for their opening night of Greetings! to get myself into the Christmas spirit.
There’s just something about the holidays that brings out the “fun” in family gatherings, isn’t there? I’m not talking about singing carols, diving into feasts, or playing board games, you probably gather. It’s the conversations that can get a little heated when we come together with people whose views aren’t quite in line with ours. Director Charisa Ramsey describes this as a tricky balance of tolerance, holding true to our own beliefs, and maintaining important relationships, and that’s exactly what this play examines.
The story is about a Catholic family coming together for Christmas Eve. We have the parents, grumpy old man Phil (Bruce Hahn) and his wife of many years, Emily (Julie Bratt). Their adult son, Mickey (Ty Young), who has an intellectual disability, lives with them as well. Coming home for the holidays is their other son, Andy (Matthew Bejjani), who brings along his significant other, Randi (Ashley Hothan), a Jewish-born and self-professed atheist meeting Andy’s family for the first time. This difference is not tolerated well by Phil and Emily, and they both question not only Randi about how she can not believe in a higher power, but also Andy for how he can marry someone with such different beliefs.
This plot seems pretty typical. I was reminded of the classic movie and play, The Man Who Comes To Dinner. Although I’ve never actually seen that version of the story, I’m betting that Greetings! has a much different plot device to heighten that examination of tolerance. It’s quite the unexpected twist, so I’m not going to spoil anything by saying what it is, but let’s just say the characters really have to open their minds when an unexpected visitor arrives, unsettling some of their seemingly strong-held views on the world.
This script written by Tom Dudzick, which premiered in 1990, has some very entertaining and comical moments. However, it also has some lines that have not aged well, especially when considering the cultures and disabilities represented. These are few and far between, fortunately. In spite of this, Ramsey’s direction and Young’s portrayal of Micky’s disability appeared to be well-informed and thought out. Young also had some great moments of contrast in his performance that displayed very intentional distinctions. Hahn and Bratt played well together, having that familiar sense of a married couple who have been together a long time, taking loving jabs at one another. While Hahn’s crankiness was easily bought, I also enjoyed some of the more tender moments he had, especially with Young. Bejjani did well with being caught in the middle, and providing some logic to the conversations. Also of note was Hothan’s ability to show a character that is able to stand up for her convictions when confronted with hostility.
The set was particularly delightful, with lots of little details addressed. Among some of those were a collection of Christmas cards, general knick-knacks, family pictures on the wall, and a back support pillow on the recliner. Behind doors that could have had nothing but black walls was functioning Christmas décor outside of the house, a basement stairway light, and a visible refrigerator. I could tell that a lot of thought went into this set. I’m sure it was fun to costume this play, especially since ’90s fashions are making a comeback. I was digging the stonewash jeans, poofy hair, and shoulder pads.
All in all, the performance was a great way to get back into the holiday spirit, but could ultimately be produced at any time of year since it really focuses on the ethical issues. The audience, which was about half full, had many guffaws and times of boisterous laughter, as well as some more pensive reactions. The chatter from the audience after the show definitely had a positive buzz to it.
This time of year tends to come with hustle and bustle, and I definitely recommend adding Greetings! to your list (and checking it twice!).
If you go: Greetings! continues its performances at Community Players December 7-8 and December 13-15, with a discount ticket night on the 7th. Shows on December 7, 13, and 14 are at 7:30 pm, with Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm on December 8 and 15. Tickets are available online, at the Community Players box office (412 Ella Street, Beatrice, NE) M-F noon to 5:00 pm and two hours before performances, or by phone at 402-228-1801 during box office hours.
Lisa Steiner is a long-time lover of theater and the arts, who enjoys performing, music directing, and filling the role of patron. She has a Bachelor of Music degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University, where she also was a staff writer, page designer, and production editor for The Reveille newspaper. During the day, Lisa is a case manager for the Department of Health and Human Services. Through this great position, she is able to combine her strengths of working with people and completing paperwork. Lisa also has a cat named Sienna.
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