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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Sensitivity fuels holiday play ‘Greetings!’ in Green Bay

Critic At Large

Green Bay Community Theater

Raechal Wozniak-Sanford, from left, Zett Ainsley, Gus Kroenke, Becky Decker and Lyle Becker in a scene from the Green Bay Community Theater production of “Greetings!” (Mark A. Jackson)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Some plays resonate like a long, strong, firm, clear note of a church bell.

Green Bay Community Theater strikes a bell – the play “Greetings!” – just right in a production continuing this week in the troupe’s historic Robert Lee Brault Playhouse.

“Greetings!” is a Christmas story, miracle and all.

It’s from Tom Dudzick, a master of plays about the dynamics of family – warts-and-all families filled with foibles, which audiences recognize from echoes of theirs.

Tom Dudzick has a lot to say in “Greetings!” He’s got Phil, a cranky, know-all father firm in his beliefs, including Catholicism. Phil’s wife, Emily, trundles along, abiding by his explosions because of their common bonds, their adult sons. Mickey is at home… forever. Mickey is differently abled. He speaks mostly in single syllables of a limited supply. Phil and Emily, separately, are trying to teach Mickey to say “greetings” because his brother, Andy, is coming home for Christmas with a lady friend who to this point is known only as Randi.

Phil is a firm believer in Christmas – and that it should be celebrated with lights and displays all over the house, inside and out. Not enough of his neighbors are as showy, Phil believes. “Nobody cares about Christmas,” he grumbles.

Randi lights up Phil’s Christmas. She comes into his sanctum sanctorum as an atheist with Hebrew roots.

Phil and Randi hold firm to their beliefs, which set off much angst and turmoil and philosophical arguing on this Christmas Eve. And then Mickey changes everything.

Because of what Mickey says and does, everyone is shocked. They can’t believe the change, and yet it is happening in front of them. And they have different takes on what happened. Mickey chimes in saying things to stoke the debate.

Plays can go anywhere and do anything, and “Greetings!” is another example. Tom Dudzick has things to say, and this fantasy is his way to say it. In speaking about beliefs – which you know circulate today like tornadoes – he says this through a character: “People do not change until they are ready to change.”

Director Sandy Zochert and the cast love this play. They are attuned to its characters and what they are saying. A bonus for the cast is Sandy Zochert portrayed Randi in a Green Bay Community Theater production 20 years ago, and she knows the where’s and how’s of the characters… knows how to ring the bell.

Inflammatory situations abound, yet what develops through this sweet cast is a sensitivity to the story.

Lyle Becker, a lifetime local actor, excels in igniting Phil’s incendiary nature. He is a guidepost around which the other players respond beautifully. Skill follows skill:

Becky Decker portrays a constant mother, Emily, who provides the sprinkled-in moments of mirth.

Zett Ainsley portrays the inconstant Mickey, a dual personality of extremes – convincing in each.

Gus Kroenke portrays the loving son/brother Andy, come home with another layer of love – a woman whose complexities are a magnet for him.

Raechal Wozniak-Sanford portrays that woman, Randi, who has spent a lifetime taking on challenges her way and suddenly finds a way to bend.

“Greetings!” is and isn’t a deep play.

The household of the set looks familiar – an everyday neighborhood home decked out with Christmas-y things including a nativity scene. Phil’s diamond-patterned sweater and Emily’s overly festive apron fit right in with the familiar.

What happens with Mickey and his alter ego go way deep.

“Greetings!” can be compared with Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” – different story, thorny thoughts, same impact.

***

Creative: Playwright – Tom Dudzick; director – Sandy Zochert; assistant director – Dave Burke; stage manager – Ali Weaver; production manager – Lina Green; set construction – Nathan Dantoin; light and sound designer – Kaitlin Honkanen; set director – Patricia Grimm; prop master – Karen Konshak; costume designer – Judy Patefield; hair and make-up – Jacqueline Ploor

Cast (in order of appearance)

Emily Gorski – Becky Decker

Mickey Gorski – Zett Ansley

Phil Gorski – Lyle Becker

Andy Gorski – Gus Kroenke

Randi Stein – Raechal Wozniak-Sanford

Running time: One hour, 44 minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1-3 and 4 p.m. Dec. 4-5

Info: gbcommunitytheater.com.

Note: Masks are required of audience members due to COVID-19 considerations.

***

NEXT: “The Gentleman Clothier” by Norm Foster, Feb. 10-12, 16-20, 2022.

THE VENUE: Green Bay Community Theater is one of the few community theaters that owns its performance space – and rehearsal space under the same roof. Stability is a big benefit. A landmark on Green Bay’s west side, the 193-seat Robert Lee Brault Playhouse features elements of an earlier time as a church, built in 1854 (the current backstage dressing room), 1895 (auditorium) and 1911 (today’s Community Room). The most obvious remnants are the church’s peaked side-wall windows with stained glass that is covered. High-up triangular windows still contain stained glass, and their patterns can be seen playing on sunny days when the troupe has matinees. The auditorium includes a 30 by 23-foot open-end stage with no stage curtain. The troupe has remodeled some portions of the building with medieval touches, but the seating area retains elements of a church. The theater includes wooden arches with decorative geometric designs on the ends and exposed beams in the sharply angled ceiling. The stage front consists of woodwork of repeated arches that looks to be repurposed wainscoting from other parts of the building. The troupe owns the building, which became its home in 1966. The Community Room serves as a gathering space for audiences prior to a performance and at intermission and for board and other internal meetings.

THE PERSON: Larger-than-life personality Robert Lee Brault was a longtime Green Bay Community Theater actor, director, scenic designer and managing director. He and his wife, Rita Brault, were mainstays from the time the troupe performed at various locations through the purchase of the present playhouse. Bob Brault died Nov. 1, 2015, in Florida at age 88. The troupe has established a special programming and education fund in his name.

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