“Miracle on South Division Street” opens at C.A.S.T. Players in Beaumont

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(Miracle on South Division Street)

CAST: Norma Ferrales as Clara, Melanie Johnson as Ruth, Jared Doegey as Jimmy, and Alysia Albeck as Beverly. Stage Manager-Sharon Barger, Bob Fisk-Sound and Light, Susan O’Connell-Director 

The setting: current-day Buffalo New York. The very Catholic, Polish-American Nowak family is headed by 70 year-old Clara, played to absolute perfection by Norma Ferrales. We have son Jimmy (Jared Doegey)-a garbage collector, daughter Ruth (Melanie Johnson)-a struggling actress, and daughter Beverly (Alysia Albeck)-a ketchup bottler and excellent bowler.

Director O’Connell always sets a fast pace and her actors waste no time getting to the point-laughs. In staccato-like fashion, we are given the premise of the play which is that the kids’ grandfather, in 1943, had a vision from the Blessed Mother while working in his barbershop.  That lead to him have a 17-foot statue built in front of the store to commemorate the visitation and offer hope to the folks of Buffalo.  If you’ve ever been to Buffalo, those folks need it…but I digress.

Norma Ferrales never misses a beat: her Clara, the slightly confused well-meaning mother trying to keep family, home and shrine together delivers laughs reminiscent of Jean Stapleton in “All in the family.”

I won’t give away the plot line except to say that the only slightly-believable play written by Tom Dudzik is given life, honesty and believability by a superior cast and direction…and said plot has more twists than a krusciki.

Ferrales is thoroughly believable as the confused Clara…and her timing is never off.  Melanie Johnson is a young actress to be reckoned with: she can alternate between being tough and Buffalo NY-hard, to being confused, to being alluring, all at the drop of a hat.

Jared Doegey’s “Jimmy” is quick-witted and honest, knowing when to go for the serious delivery and when to deliver a laugh with ease.

Alysia Albeck has been sheer perfection is a series of plays, having recently thrilled audiences as “Duke” in “Outward Bound” at The Ramona Hillside Playhouse. Albeck’s “Bev” is brassy, capable of bearing her claws in an instant, but Albeck, a very smart actress, knows when to throttle down and deliver lines with sure-shot honesty and vulnerability. Albeck helps keep the plot line believable with a perfect note of sarcasm.

Bob Fisk’s sound and lighting are right on-time and Sharon Barger’s stage-managing never fails.

But the real star of the play is O’Connell’s direction: the play never lags, as is its historic tendency in the first act. O’Connell keeps her actors-and her audience-on its toes. The resultant pace offers up many many laughs in a light-hearted, perfectly-pitched play for the Christmas Holidays. You will leave the Women’s Club in Beaumont with a smile that will last clear through until next year.

For tickets call (951) 315-4253 or go online at www.castplayers.org

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