Play: Grace

Group: RiverCity Theatre

Venue:     Gaslight Square Theatre, 356 N. Boyle Ave.

Dates: Aug. 28,29,30, Sept. 3,4,5,6

Tickets: $15 and $20; 658-7200

Story: Steve and Sara, a young married couple, have moved from Minnesota to Florida, where Steve has immersed himself in some heavy duty real estate deals on behalf of an unseen benefactor.  While Steve, a strongly evangelizing Christian, accepts this role on faith, Sara is concerned that there is no contract obligating Steve’s distant boss for the finances on a deal for a major new hotel.  Steve wants the hotel to signal a new line of inns serving a Christian clientele, while Sara worries that they are sinking into debt.

    Steve’s heavy-handed proselytizing alienates the exterminator who services their apartment building, as well as their neighbor, a computer programmer for NASA who was disfigured in an auto accident that killed his fiancé.  While Steve doesn’t reach the two men in the ways he hoped, nonetheless they gradually reveal much about their respective pasts, the former as a survivor of Nazi Germany and the latter as a man struggling with emotional as well as physical scars.

Highlights: RiverCity Theatre makes irregular appearances at venues around town that often are memorable, as with last year’s Hamlet.  This time around, director Greg Johnston has judiciously selected four outstanding performers to relate another of playwright Craig Wright’s superior efforts.

    This production of Grace is everything provocative drama should be: taut direction, fluidly paced even with a number of somewhat clumsy scene changes; outstanding acting across the board; and a script by former divinity student Wright that succeeds in gaining your attention in ways so many other modern writers fail, simply by telling a good story in mesmerizing fashion.

    Wright’s script may have you squirming constantly, uncomfortable with Steve’s aggressive posture, with the unsettling feeling of watching a train wreck of cataclysmic doom. As Steve, Jason Cannon simply barges through his uncertain life, accentuating the power of self-destruction, even to the point it’s puzzling what the character’s wife found attractive in him.

    As Sara, Sarah Cannon shows us, through body language as well as facial expressions, both the loneliness and compassion of the young wife, whose life has been narrowed to the brief confines of her alien new existence, only to be resurrected by her blooming friendship with a hermetic neighbor. Area newcomer Chad Morris makes an impressive debut as Sam, the tormented programmer whose guilt and misery are carefully lifted away as cautiously as his new appreciation for life. And Dan Shea is outstanding as Karl, the methodical exterminator who responds to Steve’s pushy approach with a stunningly poignant reminiscence of his own troubled past.

Other Info: Grace is a provocative but brilliantly etched story that shines in this stellar presentation.

Rating: A 5 on a scale of 1-to-5.