Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Saving Grace (Stage Review; Grace, Cort Theater)

There is nothing new in "Grace."  Craig Wright weaves a story about faith, and how it is tested. And it's pretty much by the numbers. The direction makes it clear that there are no surprises here. We know s soon as the curtain rises that something terrible will happen to the main characters, Steve and Sara (played by Paul Rudd and Kate Arrington) So we get set up on appreciating how we get to that terrible place in their lives. And we ask ourselves, what is this play trying to tell us, what are we to infer, to judge, to take from this evening? As the play is written, not much. But, strangely, though, I still found "Grace" to be a satisfying evening. Why? Because of the electric performances. Paul Rudd, as a religious Christian who moves with his wife to Florida, is a natural actor, who plays the role with charm, obnoxiousness, and passion. He never goes over-the-top which could have been an easy and obvious trap. You feel he doesn't have a desire for the character to be understood deeply, but you do anyway. When his character reaches a breaking point, it is realized: you aren't surprised by the characterization even if the situation is surprising. Arrington is perfectly foiled: she brings a softness and vulnerability to her role. Shannon is fantastic, too. He is low-key and down-to-earth. Ed Asner steals his scenes, but then his role was written that way. Dexter Bullard, the director has fine touches - the turntable stage hasn't been effectively used since Les Miserables. The play may be lightweight, but the amazing performances here are the saving grace for the evening.   

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