Monday, May 14, 2012

Miracle on South Division Street

Tom Dudzick's lovely and touching comedy, Miracle on South Division Street, focuses on the working-class Nowaks of Buffalo--Clara and her three adult children--a close-knit family who nevertheless keep secrets from one another. What makes the Nowaks notably different from millions of other people who work hard and go to (or skip) mass is that they have long believed that their family is specially blessed by the Virgin Mary.

Although their neighborhood is changing rapidly, with stores closing and old friends leaving town, the Nowaks live relatively unchanged lives. Clara maintains a statue of the Holy Mother and operates a soup kitchen. Mellow son Jimmy and energetic daughter Beverly have radically different personalities but the same goals--to be happily married and to bowl on weekends. Daughter Ruth aspires to be an actress and performs small roles in local shows. Their lives go quietly on until Ruth decides to write a one-woman show about the family and forces them to question their assumptions, identity, and the meaning of miracles

Miracle on South Division Street nicely balances humor and genunine life challenges. It starts a little slowly, and perhaps could use a few fewer one-liners, but it is funny and thoughtful. It is particularly good at showing how adults always remain children in their parents' homes. Director Joe Brancato occasionally lets the actors play the jokes instead of the reality but he keeps the show well-paced and -focused. The cast is good; in particular, Peggy Cosgrave as Clara provides a strong, likeable central presence.

Miracle on South Division Street is my favorite type of comedy: you laugh and laugh, but you also shed a tear or two. 

(Full disclosure: Tom Dudzick is my brother-in-law.)

(free ticket, 8th row center)

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