Warm-Hearted and Funny Family Show is a Perfect Christmas Treat

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    “Miracle on South Division Street” runs through December 31 at Virginia Rep at Hanover Tavern. Catherine Shaffner (seated) is surrounded by Audra Honaker, Donna Marie Miller, and John Mincks. Photo by Jay Paul.

    If you’re looking for a generous dose of laughter this holiday season, Virginia Rep’s Miracle on South Division Street playing at Hanover Tavern may be just what the doctor ordered.

    This sassy comedy shares the tale of the Nowak family living in a blue collar Buffalo neighborhood. Clara, the matriarch of the die-hard Catholic family, spends much of her time running a soup kitchen and watching after the shrine of the Blessed Mary just outside the house. Her father built the shrine in 1942 after supposedly being visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary. For years, the shrine was a thriving tourist attraction, but recently it’s lost its luster.

    Everyone in the family has grown up with the legend of this “miracle,” but one member of the family, Clara’s daughter Ruth, uncovers a few misplaced details that eventually turn everything topsy-turvy. The resulting mayhem leads to a serious round of laughter.

    Director Debra Clinton cast this short 90-minute show (no intermission) with acting powerhouses and she’s given them the freedom to explore their characters.

    Audra Honaker, who plays daughter Ruth, is an absolute delight in the role. Honaker has a special skill for soliciting a laugh, and she uses it to its full extent in this production. Her timing is perfect as always. Her angst and trepidation about revealing the truth that she knows no one will want to hear is honestly portrayed.

    As Clara’s other daughter, Beverly, Donna Marie Miller, gives a solid performance. Her over-the-top characterization is fun to watch.

    John Mincks is very believable as Clara’s son Jimmy who is trying to figure out a way to break it to his mother that he wants to propose to his Jewish girlfriend. He ratchets up the humor when Ruth delivers her news.

    Catherine Shaffner takes on the role of Clara with gusto, honing in on Clara’s shock and her eventual acceptance of the news. A master at comedy, Shaffner knows exactly when to go full throttle. She never disappoints.

    Miracle on South Division Street is a warm, lighthearted show for the family that’s perfect for a cold winter’s night. It runs through December 31 at Virginia Rep’s Hanover Tavern.

    For showtimes and tickets, visit Virginia Rep.