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Restaurant lunch highlights:

ART & ABOUT: 'Miracle On South Division Street'

Mom's statue becomes daughter's stigma

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

Stigmas indelibly tattooed on your soul, skeletons in your closest, anguished crosses to bear. These are age old social biases, personal psychological scars that can take generations to overcome.



And last weekend at this Hippodrome production of Miracle On South Division Street, we laughed out loud through this families liberation from the pain symbolized by the statue dad placed in their front yard.

Speaking of stigma mine is about when I was younger and I... Stop, wait, we haven't even kissed yet. Enough about me.

030719DudzickMUGBut I would love to know screenwriter's Tom Dudzick's personal aberration that compelled this – what could be – age old family story idea.

Speaking or markers in the front yard,

"A memorial plaque has been positioned in front of Dudzick's boyhood home in Buffalo, commemorating his father's tavern and the play it inspired. An even greater honor -- Tom Dudzick was once a question on Jeopardy!"

Hippodrome Theatre Director V Craig Heidenreich must be a fan of family comedies. From All In The Families's Archie Bunker to the Brady Bunch's Alice. Mr. Heidenreich does an excellent job collecting scenarios and situations from living rooms gone awry creating a hilarious cacophony of old family one liners to crazy mama Ruth's sight gags.

From the website:

030719MiracleMOMMiracle on South Division Street is the story of the Nowak family, living amidst the urban rubble of Buffalo, NY's East Side. The neighborhood may be depressed, but that can't be said for Clara, the family matriarch. She happily runs her soup kitchen and tends to the family heirloom – a twenty-foot shrine to the Blessed Mother which adjoins the house. This neighborhood beacon of faith commemorates the day in 1942 when the Blessed Virgin Mary materialized in her father's barber shop! When the play opens, a family meeting is in progress. Daughter Ruth divulges her plan to finally "go public" with the family miracle by creating a one-woman play about the sacred event. But during the course of the meeting, the entire family's faith is shaken to the very core when a deathbed confession causes the family legend to unravel. The results are heartfelt and hilarious.

The paragraph above sums up the simmering story of a family relationship living on the edge of a monument placed in their front yard by their deceased father. The family patriarch, barber,  eulogizing idolatry what appears to be alternative reasons. After all these years of statue explanation each family member now interprets the obelisk with different, often amusing viewpoints.

Over the edge LOL madness ensues in the Hipp audience as Clara and Beverly go crazy with the new statue story idea while Jimmy is open minded. 

Set in Buffalo, New York, The play opens with the Polish-American very Catholic Nowak clan led by the 70 + Clara (Nell Page) controlling her siblings with a potent combination of mother's guilt with sprinkles of Catholic guilt:



zzGLOBbullet Son, Jimmy (Niall McGinty), a garbage collector wants to announce his engagement to a Jewish girl he fears his mother's wrath due to her anti-Semitism and rigid Catholicism.

zzGLOBbullet Beverly (Laura Shatkus), a ketchup bottler and fanatic bowler eager to keep the familial status quo alive happy with her life of family and Wednesay night bowling.

zzGLOBbullet Ruth (Jackie Schram), a struggling actress, and screenplay writer calls a family meeting to discus the stature sparks fly as she plans to "go public" with the truth behind the statue by creating a one-woman play about the vision.



Miracle's Act TWO finds the reason for the families understanding of their extra large lawn statue quandary. More believable than the visionary tale, the family legend unravels causing Clara and Beverly to question their beliefs as to both the legend and their religious faith.

030719MIRACLEjimmyAIt was extraordinarily unique how the Hipp's theater-in-the-round approach was a perfect size for four very large personalities seeking control of the higher ground in this family contest of 'GOTCHA':

- Nell Page's Clara does an excellent job driving the Nowak family bus complete with generational attitude, and mother like grit, pluck, and stick-to-it-iveness. Gainesville is lucky to have so many skilled, professional actors like Nell Page in our community.

- Jackie Schram's Ruth was believable in her desire to complete her first screenplay about her families quirkiness complete with her own surprising personality debut.

- Niall McGinty's Jimmy was the perfect male influence in what seems to be a completely female driven environment of decision making and re-establishing of the Nowak family reality.



Laura Shatkus' Beverly was the Greek Chorus of MIRACLES for me. Much like Jimmy, Beverly moved the play forward with little patience to the uprooting of her family history. An incredible, new story of a statue and family skeletons all of a sudden interfering with her Wednesday night bowling team.

I was chastised earlier for giving up too much of the ending of an earlier review. Kudos to Tom Dudzick for saving a diamond-in-the-rough like surprise ending to this story of perception, misperceptions, and quirky-ly believable family madness circling with the modern day question of "who's your mom'ma." on the Miracle On South Division Street.



Special thanks to the Hippodrome's Michael A. Eaddy, and Gainesville's Downtown for sharing their images. The Hippodrome's current production of Miracle On South Division Street continues through March 24 on with performance on various days and times. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more schedule information.

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