Play: Grace & Glorie
Group: Insight Theatre Company
Venue: Heagney Theatre, 530 East Lockwood (Nerinx Hall campus)
Dates: October 16, 17, 18
Tickets: From $8 to $15; contact 314-968-1505, ext. 131
Story: Gloria, a transplanted New Yorker, moves to Virginia when her attorney husband takes a job with a law firm there. An ambitious career woman, she is frustrated with the lack of job opportunities in her rural outpost, and so volunteers for hospice work. One of her first charges is Grace, a 90-year-old woman suffering from cancer. At first irritated by the older woman’s quirks and habits, Gloria, or “Glorie” as Grace calls her, slowly develops an affinity for her elderly patient, and learns that she has more in common with the simple but wise woman than she realized.
Highlights: This two-character drama by Tom Ziegler provides plenty of emotional fodder for its two players, as well as a generous helping of humor. The second presentation of the fledgling Insight Theatre Company is generally a joy to behold, primarily due to the acting prowess of Susie Wall.
The talented actress is virtually unrecognizable as the wizened, diminutive Grace, effectively hidden behind a gray wig and the shapeless frocks of costume designer JC Krajicek. What Wall does, beyond the appearance of Grace, is to marvelously capture her indomitable spirit, one that has survived the deaths of her husband and all five children. Watching Wall’s coy delivery of numerous comic lines adds to the enjoyment of this poignant, if occasionally overwrought, tale.
Other Info: Jenni Ryan is solid as well as the younger but equally troubled Gloria. Ryan nicely conveys the frustrations and tribulations of an urbanite beyond her scope of comfort, slowly unveiling her own personal tragedies. Together, under the astute and measured direction of Wayne Loui, the two actresses finely complement each other.
Jim Ryan’s set design and props suitably present Grace’s modest little cottage, while Tori Meyer’s sound design conveys the imminent encroachment of urban sprawl as a developer transforms Grace’s lifelong home and land into some modern but sterile oasis. Sean Savoie contributes the effective lighting.
Ziegler’s story obviously goes for the heartstrings, and such luminaries as Gena Rowlands, Diane Lane, Estelle Parsons, Lucie Arnaz and Bonnie Franklin have mined its emotional potential on Broadway and on film. It’s doubtful, though, that Grace could be any more memorable than Wall’s portrayal.
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.