Given that their core audience comes on buses from places where risk-taking might mean eating dinner past 5, One Thirty Productions is surprisingly edgy with the choice of Greetings! as a Christmas season play. Tom Dudzick, sometimes called the "Catholic Neil Simon," has written something that ventures way outside any neatly wrapped box of Judeo-Christian ideas.
This warm comedy finds a family Christmas interrupted by a mysterious entity, speaking through the voice and body of a mentally challenged adult named Mickey (played with exquisite timing by Ben Bryant). Mickey's parents, the Archie Bunker-like dad (Sonny Franks) and Edith-like mom (Gene Raye Price), are in a tizzy about their other son Andy's fiancée (Julie Osborne). Andy (John Venable) wants his parents to love the girl, but when they discover she's Jewish and atheist, there's a Christmas Eve dinner table meltdown.
Then suddenly Mickey says "Greetings!" in a voice no one's heard before. Explaining that he's a wise, ancient soul named Lucius, he proceeds to teach the family a few things about tolerance, love and "living in the light."
Directed by Terry Dobson in his first venture outside his home company at Theatre Three, the play is raucously funny one minute (mostly thanks to Bryant, a topnotch comic) and thoughtful the next. The actors play it absolutely straight, bringing a nice level of dignity to what could be a broadly acted situation comedy.
With its questioning of religious dogma, Greetings! is unusually challenging material for One Thirty. But good for them. It'll give the folks something new to discuss afterward over the early bird special.
Greetings! continues through December 17 (matinees only) at the Bath House Cultural Center. Call 214-670-8749.