I have a confession to make. I go to Swift Creek Mill Theatre for the food, and the play is really just the icing on the cake for me. There, I said it. I feel better now that I’ve come clean.
It’s fortunate that the plays are always stellar, so there is no secret desire to scoot out after the meal, but I’m telling you, the pre-show meals are delightful, and the whole experience makes for a perfect date night, girls’ night (or day) out, or outing with your parents, grandparents, or kids, depending on the show.
I took my mom, stepdad, and two friends for a Thanksgiving weekend outing to see Swift Creek Mill’s production of Miracle on South Division Street, and it was the perfect multi-generation activity to kick off the holidays. After enjoying every delicious thing on this menu and taking in some of the sights around the theater, including some of its rich history that dates all the way back to the 1600s, we made our way upstairs to the theater for the 90-minute production (no intermission).
Set entirely in the Nowak family’s Buffalo, New York, kitchen on Christmas Eve 2010, Miracle on South Division Street unwraps the family secrets surrounding a statue of the blessed Virgin Mary that resides in the family’s front yard (it’s based on a true local legend and a real 20-foot statue in Buffalo). According to the family legend, on Christmas Eve in 1942, the Blessed Mother herself appeared to Grandpa in the family barbershop. Now Clara, the family matriarch, happily tends the family heirloom, a twenty-foot memorial shrine to the Virgin Mary which adjoins the house. As the play develops, daughter Ruth divulges her plan to finally “go public” with the miracle by creating a one-woman Christmas Show about the sacred event. But during the course of the meeting, the entire family’s faith is shaken to the very core when a deathbed confession causes the family legend to unravel.
The show was perfectly cast with four top-notch actors, all of whom will be familiar to Richmond theatergoers. I was happy to see Neal Gallini-Burdick step onto the stage – it was like seeing an old friend again, after watching him in Virginia Rep’s Dear Jack, Dear Louise. Audra Honaker returns to the Swift Creek stage and shines as Ruth, the daughter who holds the many secrets that spill out one after the other throughout the play, ultimately changing the family forever. Jacqueline Jones, the family’s matriarch, has a slew of local and national productions under her belt, and once again is a joy to watch. Donna Marie Miller provides the spunk on stage with her upbeat and hilarious portrayal of feisty sister Beverly. As the story unfolds and reaches its satisfying conclusion, you’ll likely see bits of your own family in the Nowaks and will leave with a smile on your face and a warmth in your heart.
Miracle on South Division Street runs through December 31. For showtimes and tickets, visit Swift Creek Mill Theatre.