Theatre Mirror Review "Greetings!"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at Newport Playhouse is "Greetings", a warm yet funny Christmas show, making it a pleasant alternative to "A Christmas Carol". The story takes place on Christmas Eve in the Gorski home in the working class neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Andy brings home his Jewish, atheist fiancee, Randi Stein to meet his nice, Catholic mother, Emily who is a bit hard of hearing, his cranky, grouchy father, Phil and his retarded brother, Mickey who only says, "Wow" and "Oh, Boy". Chaos rules the evening until Mickey is inhabited by a spirit, Lucius who proves miracles do happen due to the love and understanding of each of the characters towards the other. Director Sandy Cerel leads her cast through their petty squabbles to becoming a family again, healing their old wounds. She gives this show the poignancy and warmth needed, to help the audience get into the right mood for Christmas. Set designer Tonya Free's gorgeous set complete with Christmas tree and decorations adds the finishing touches to a fantastic enjoyable evening of entertainment.

Sandy creates an emotion packed show with her five talented performers that bring tears to your eyes at their expert portrayals. "Greetings" is another feather in her cap as a dramatic director. Stage manager Hen Zannini keeps the show running smoothly all night long while the set was built by Fred Davison.The biggest scene stealer in this show is Jim Bagley as the special needs brother, Mickey. His acting prowess in this role astounds you as he transforms himself into the talking spirit, Lucius. Jim stays in character throughout the entire show, maintaining the behavior of a special needs person splendidly. Jim's dialogue as Lucius is delivered with an European accent and when he utters his first word "Greetings", the audience is astounded. The spirit helps the family overcome its problems as well as to help Randi reach out to her father. Lucius also fulfills Mickey's dream of speaking, too. One of his funniest bits comes when Mickey uses the crucifix as a plane. Jim is also funny doing Mickey's favorite wrestling moves with his brother. He emits a terrifying roar and makes a claw with his hand to pin his opponent. Jim gives a dynamite performance playing this lovable character from start to finish, eliciting tears from the whole cast and the audience at all the right moments. One of his funniest lines as Lucius is when he tells Phil that Phil was his wife 11 times before.

Playing the mother and father are veteran performers, Cindy and Jim Killavey who are married in real life, too. They both play their roles wonderfully as this bickering couple and add the needed depth in a splendid crying scene when Mickey first speaks. Cindy plays the caring doting mother beautifully. Her fainting scene and when she says a Jewish friend sits and shiver when someone dies is funny as is when she says she is going to give Phil a kick in the ass when he throws a baked apple on the floor. The poignant moments occur when she tries to teach Mickey how to talk and when she react to Mickey's convulsion scene. These moments add depth to the show. Jim's old man walk with a cane and his posture are very convincing as this much older person. He plays this cranky old man with a lot of gusto and the audience loves it when he is put in his place by the other characters. Jim's funniest lines are when he tries to scare the spirit out of Mickey with a photo of the Blessed Mother and a crucifix. He also receives many laughs when he says Sister Clarissa jumped him, really jump starting his car. Jim is wonderful as this cantankerous man. He also shines in three separate crying scenes during the show, showing a softer side to this character.

The engaged couple is played by their son, Kevin Killavey and his real life girl friend, Tonya Free. Kevin does terrific wok as Andy, showing realistic emotional reactions in the scenes. From being hurt by his father's disapproval, to being loving and warm to Mickey and his mother as well as showing great love and affection for his girlfriend, Randi. Kevin handles the dramatic and comic moments wonderfully. Tonya handles the complicated role of Randi splendidly. She shows strength when she stands up to Phil, when she shows loves towards Andy and shows understanding to Mickey. Randi turns into a softer more forgiving person when she realizes it's time to make up with her parents due to the help of Lucius. Some of her funny lines include thinking Santa was a drunk because a record kept skipping saying "he loaded and loaded and loaded" also funny is a doing a Milk of Magnesia commercial on TV. Tonya shows off her dramatic chops as Randi when she tearfully describes her sister's death years ago and in Mickey's convulsion scene as well as the last scene of the show. She is marvelous as Randi and is a terrific set designer, too. Topnotch job by one and all in this marvelous show for the Christmas season. You will enjoy a mouth watering all you can eat buffet before the show and a fun filled cabaret afterwards. So for a warm hearted Christmas treat, be sure to catch "Greetings". It is thought provoking, moves you emotionally, tugs at your heartstrings as well as supplies you with some laughter along the way. Tell them Tony sent you to see one of the best renditions I have ever seen of this show.

"Greetings!" (8 November - 31 December)
@ 104 Connell Highway, NEWPORT RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide