The age-old saying "The family that prays together, stays together," offers apt advice. Faith is a strong foundation that unites. The same can be said about humor and life's brand of funny that connects a theater audience sharing the same laughter.
It's all the above, coupled with the fine performances of the collection of top Chicagoland talent assembled at Theatre at the Center this month, that make the latest stage offering in Munster such a must-see ticket.
"Miracle on South Division Street," the funny, just under two hours (which includes an intermission) play by Tom Dudzick, is playing until June 1 at Theatre at the Center as a Chicago-area premiere.
This is the story of the working-class Nowak Family, a devout Polish clan who live in Buffalo, N.Y. (But while watching this bunch in action, they could just as easily be plucked from a Northwest Indiana address or somewhere from Chicago's South Side.)
With guided comedy craft under the guidance of William Pullinsi, audiences are treated to an amusing, silly story with some important lessons still to be learned by all, about how faith and religious beliefs shape family habits.
Clara Nowak, the widowed mother of the three grown children in this featured family, is played brilliantly by Marilynn Bogetich, who only has to bat her eye or clip the delivery of a line of dialogue to assure an eruption of laughter from the audience. She has spent her life carefully assuring a shrine devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as created by her beloved father, remains a destination for the faithful.
Her late father, a neighborhood barber, encountered a vision of Mary in his shop during the 1940s and the event became the basis for a believed miracle, hence the shrine that followed. Today, the barbershop space serves as a soup kitchen run by Clara and her children Jimmy, a deft performance by Joe Popp, who is an easy-to-please garbage collector, along with abrasive sis Bev, played by funny Erin Grennan, who is a ketchup bottler and Ruth, an honest and believable turn from Adria Dawn, who is a struggling actress.
When daughter Ruth calls a family meeting about the future and fate of the family's shrine, the result is a funny reveal, not only of generational secrets, but also an examination of spirit and soul, all wrapped in humor and surprises.
Featuring a comfortable and very real set design by Jeff Bauer, lighting design from Shelley Strasser-Holland, sound design from Barry G. Funderburg, props design from Jessie Howe and costumes by Brenda Winstead, this is a home-away-from home visit that includes humor every step of the way.
Performances are 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays with select Thursday evening and Saturday matinees. Tickets are $40 to $44 with group discounts available for groups of 11 or more as well as gift certificates. FYI: (219) 836-3255 or TheatreAtTheCenter.com