Review: Miracle on South Division Street

2013-11-17T00:00:00Z 2014-07-01T14:22:24Z Review: Miracle on South Division StreetBy Kathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Imagine this:

You are the matriarch of a devout Polish Catholic family in a crumbling Buffalo, N.Y., neighborhood.

One daughter has stopped going to Mass. Another is dating an ex-priest. And your son goes bowling with a Jewish woman. Bowling! We can only imagine what’s next.

To compound your distress, your children have lost the enthusiasm for the spiel they give about the 18-foot statue of the Madonna your father had erected a half-century before to commemorate a visitation from the Virgin Mary in his barbershop.

It’s the problem facing Clara, the mother in Tom Dudzick’s “Miracle on South Division Street,” which Invisible Theatre opened Wednesday.

What this wispy comedy lacks in substance is made up in charm and heart.

Director Gail Fitzhugh has assembled a cast that’s committed to the outrageousness and to fleshing out the characters.

Toni Press-Coffman piled on the guilt as the mother, Clara, yet made her love and concern for her children palpable. The character is a hoot, and Press-Coffman embraced every loony aspect of Clara.

Alida Holguin Gunn’s Beverly was a tough, self-centered cookie, and Gunn made the most of the broadly drawn character, tossing her ponytail and polishing Beverly’s brassiness with hilarious results.

Seth Fowler gave a sweetness to Jimmy, the son who is in love with a Jewish woman and is afraid to tell his mom.

Carley Elizabeth Preston is Ruth, the daughter who eschews church and has held on to some family secrets. The burden of those secrets and the tenderness in which she unloads them are compelling in Preston’s hands.

It’s tough not to laugh at this play, even when it uses broad strokes and goes for easy laughs. Fitzhugh and company have, happily, given us something to smile about.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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