A supposed visitation by the Virgin Mary to a blue collar Buffalo, N.Y., neighborhood begets unforeseen revelations for a family of Polish American Catholics in the Colony Theatre's charming West Coast premiere of Tom Dudzick's holiday comedy, "Miracle on South Division Street."
Change is never easy, but it's especially difficult for Nowak family matriarch Clara (Ellen Crawford), who's faithfully tended the statue erected by her immigrant father to celebrate the Blessed Mother's apparition, despite the church's refusal to acknowledge it as a miracle.
Nowadays urban decay has tanked the shrine's value as a tourist attraction, and her three grown children are testing her patience and her religious faith. One daughter (Karianne Flaathen) has stopped going to Mass, her other daughter (Meghan Andrews) is planning to ditch the family on Christmas Eve for a date with an ex-priest, her son, Jimmy (Brian Ibsen), has been out bowling with a Jewish girl — and Clara knows full well where bowling leads.
Crawford's snappy delivery buoys the show's amiable comic tone while illuminating the resilience that enabled her character to adapt to life in America. Despite having to heavily rely on exposition, Flaathen nimbly propels the action as the conflicted daughter who holds the keys to buried truths about the "miracle" statue and about her mother's origins.
Brian Shnipper's lively staging and smart casting make the most of playwright Dudzick's cleverly constructed falling domino surprises that ultimately tie up seemingly loose narrative ends in a breezy but heartfelt message about tolerance.
"Miracle on South Division Street," The Colony Theatre, 555 N. 3rd St., Burbank. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 16. $25 to $45. (818) 558-7000 or www.colonytheatre.org. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
[For the record, Nov. 13, 6:25 p.m.: A previous version of this post listed an incorrect phone number for the Colony Theatre. The correct number is above.]