Greetings! ushers in a new era at Miners Alley

There are big changes afoot at Miners Alley, the small, bright and hospitable theater established by Rick Bernstein almost a decade ago in Golden after running a Morrison company he'd founded in 1989. But after close to 25 years in the business, at the start of the new year, Bernstein and his wife, artistic director Paige Larson, will be turning over Miners Alley to Len Matheo and Brenda Billings of the Evergreen Players; Matheo's wife, actor Lisa DeCaro, and Billings's husband, Jim, will join the organization's board. Both Bernstein and Paige will stick around for the transition, serving as consultants the first year and helping get the slate of already announced shows up on the boards. After that, all decisions about repertoire will be made by the new team.

"For Rick, it's been 24 years of producing and directing," says Larson, "and twelve for me. When we moved to Golden, we said, 'Let's see if we can go ten years.' Next year is ten years, and we both felt that we had fulfilled our personal commitment and it was time for a change. We started talking about how we can make this work and make sure it's a growth and continuation, not an abandonment: This particular group of folks has a long history in Colorado theater. So it wasn't about walking away or letting the place go into unknown hands.

"I'll still be acting," she adds. "Rick's in the current show, and he'll probably direct for Miners in 2014." But she'll miss "the coming together of everything," Larson admits. "You struggle sometimes. You fight through, and then it's opening night, and the energy, the patrons, the after-show buffet — those things will be hardest for us. Not being hands-on with the actors, directors, crew people. At one point it's going to hit us. But all in all, this is super-positive."

The cast of Greetings!, now at Miners Alley.
Paige Larson
The cast of Greetings!, now at Miners Alley.

Greetings!, the theater's current offering, begins with a fair amount of charm and humor, even if the basic plot is less than original. Andy Gorski has brought his girlfriend, Randi, to his Pittsburgh home to meet his very Catholic and conventional family: grumpy, alcoholic father Phil, anxious and unhappy mother Emily, and mentally challenged younger brother Mickey, whose sole utterances are "Wow!" and "Oh, boy!" Think Meet the Parents crossed with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and throw in a dash of Archie and Edith Bunker. But even if the characters aren't fully fleshed out and the jokes are a bit thin — dredging her memory for anything she can come up with about Judaism, Emily exhumes a reference to "young kippers" and refers to the well-known ritual in which mourners "sit and shiver" — the acting is strong, and the first act flies by. Rick Bernstein is particularly good as Phil, and Jennifer Condreay's Emily combines working-class matter-of-factness with a certain innocence. Kurt Brighton is a warm-hearted Andy, and Matt Maxwell does well with Mickey. Although Miriam Tobin makes for a vital and striking Randi, her acting is a little insecure. Still, the affectionate interplay between Andy and the brother for whom he's saved his airline package of honey-roasted nuts and with whom he wrestles uninhibitedly on the floor is appealing, and Phil's constant growling irritation, his endless battles with the house's electricity, are pretty funny.

But then the angelic being shows up. I won't tell you how, because that's the only decent surprise in an otherwise predictable evening. And he's not exactly an angel or a devil or a sage, but something far more ecumenical and non-specific. Unhappily, this being is also a complete bore, provider of minor and meaningless miracles, utterer of the kind of advice about life you'd expect to find in a Hallmark card or overhear on the Boulder Mall on a sunny afternoon. He helps Randi make peace with the death of her little sister ("She had more to do with her own death than you suspect") and explains to Emily that changing your life is as simple as changing your actions day by day. Something like that. I think. Because by then I was starting to tune him out.

But taken as a whole, and perhaps with an eggnog or two to help it along, this is a pleasant holiday offering, and a reminder of the unpretentious charm we've encountered often — along with witty British dramas, interesting new American plays and the occasional touch of continental sophistication — at Miners Alley, thanks to Larson and Bernstein.

 
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