STONY POINT — Penguin Rep seems to be a perfect fit for playwright Tom Dudzick. This is the third play that producer Joseph Brancato has presented as Penguin Rep’s opening show. Last year’s offering, “Over the Tavern,” was largely autobiographical. “Greetings!” draws from similar family themes, but here adds a miraculous twist.
Comic elements such as bad electrical wiring (plugging in the Christmas tree causes the house lights to go out) set the stage for an unforgettable Christmas. Andy Gorski is bringing his fiancée home to meet the family. Parents Phil and Emily bicker over the visit and about the health of their other son, Mickey, who barely speaks and is mentally retarded.
During an uncomfortable Christmas Eve dinner, a religious discussion ensues involving fiancée Randi, an atheistic Jew, and Phil, a staunch Catholic, over the existence of God. Andy and Emily try to mediate, but it is Mickey who brings the argument to a standstill.
Richard Kline, as Phil, and Beth Fowler, as Emily, are perfection in their roles. They banter and bicker like an old married couple and deliver the laughs with sniper precision. Kline is ideal as the cranky, frustrated, opinionated patriarch. There are moments when the audience gets to see the heart behind the hard shell, which makes it an appealing portrayal.
Fowler breezes in and out of the action without missing a beat. There are times when Emily seems confused, which is at odds with the type of canny character Fowler portrays. Andy explains by telling Randi that his mother is slightly hard of hearing. Or does she hear what she wants to hear?