Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
So it is with Greetings!, written by Tom Dudzick and directed by Nancy Sellin at The Adobe Theater. The story is a domestic comedy. A grown son brings his fiancée home to meet his parents. Andy (Levi Gore) has been living in New York. His boyhood home is in middle-class America, Catholic and very straight. He knows his atheist Jewish girlfriend Randi (Jennifer Benoit) is not going to sit well with his parents, especially his father. Yet he just plows into the situation strategy-free. They come home on Christmas Eve, of course.
Things don't go well. That's the predictable part. But it's the twists on this age-old story that matter. For one, his brother Mickey (Daniel Anaya) is a special-needs adult. While his disability is not clear from the script, Sellin presents him on the spectrum. That gives Mickey a wide range of potential behaviors.
The other twist is that Mickey changes after Andy and Randi arrive. His parents, Phil (Tim Reardon) and Emily (Georgia Athearn), live a very predictable life. Phil has a troubled backstory that is revealed in pieces through the play, and Mickey is only able to speak a few words. His entire vocabulary is "oh boy" and "wow," though Phil continually tries to coax more words from him, urging him to say, "Greetings."
The story goes haywire when Mickey actually says the word. This world for this family goes absolutely upside down. I didn't see it coming. I was expecting the drama to remain in conventional territory with expected increasing tension over religion and ethnicity, bigotry and brittleness. All that's there, but the play slips into far more exciting territory where all of the characters are challenged and all of the hidden personal ghosts emerge.
I loved this play. I felt different when I left the theater than I did when I entered. How long has it been since that magic happened? Maybe it's the extended break from live performances that rendered me fresh. Maybe it's that the theater community has found new energy after 18 months of silence. Or maybe it's just that this is a beautiful play. It's probably all three.
Sellin always has a sure hand with her productions. She knows there to push, and she knows where to hold back. Anaya's performance at Mickey is deliciousnearly over the top. In this context, "nearly over the top" is perfect. As Phil, Reardon well delivers the utter sourness of the character while also showing the inch-by-inch changes in Phil during the second act.
Athearn shows the steadiness of Emily, constant in her love and belief as cacophony swirls through her home. Gore as Andy and Benoit as Randi go for the crazy drama that is nearly slapstick and tons of fun. This cast works wonderfully together, creating a tidy whole out of all the whacky pieces.
The design crew has done an excellent job. There is a great set by Pete Parkin, nice costumes and props by Rhonda Backinoff, and solid work by Jerry Hines as stage manager, Shannon Flynn with tech and sound, and Georgia Athearn as production coordinator.
Kudos to Sellin. She picked a fresh playeven though it's decades old and has made it both understated and extreme, each when needed. I got swept awayand I rarely get swept away. Partly it's this crazy time, and partly it's this sweet and exciting play in the hands of terrific actors and a well-skilled director.
Greetings! runs through December 19, 2021, at The Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth St. NW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. General admission is $20. Admission for seniors, students, and ATG members is $17. For reservations, call 505-898-9222. For more information, visit adobetheater.org.