“Grace,” a dark comedy, examines the meaning of faith. It officially opened October 4 at Broadway’s Cort Theatre. Previews for the production began on September 13, 2012. The show is scheduled to play a limited engagement until January 6. Despite the show’s recent opening, several mixed reviews have been issued in its short time on Broadway. The Broadway debut of “Grace” was long-awaited. The production has been presented at theaters in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
This production includes the Broadway debuts of the playwright Craig Wright, the director Dexter Bullard, and the actor Michael Shannon. “Grace” features only four actors. Paul Rudd and Kate Arrington play a devout religious married couple, Steve and Sara. The two have moved from Minnesota to south Florida on pretty much faith alone in order to start a Biblical based chain of hotels.
Things turn grim as the financial pressures bear down upon the couple. Their world is further turned upside down when they run into two quirky characters: Michael Shannon, their neighbor and disfigured rocket-scientist; and Ed Asner, a German pest-control man. A TicketNews® article from earlier this year regarding the production’s fall premiere includes more information on the play and cast.
According to USA Today, Ed Asner has not been on Broadway in more than two decades and when asked what brought on his desire to return, Asner said, “The chance to be with these bums (referring to Paul Rudd) and because nobody had asked me again until now. And the play, of course.”
Robert Feldberg of NorthJersey.com said, “The superbly-acted ‘Grace,’ which opened Thursday night at the Cort Theatre, is odd and utterly compelling. The play, by Craig Wright, pokes fun at a common religious belief, while making as eloquent and sensitive an argument for the rewards of faith as you’ll find.”
Elisabeth Vincentelli of the NY Post said, “‘Grace’ veers off in interesting directions by moving all the characters — not just Steve — outside of their comfort zone. Granted, Wright and director Dexter Bullard overreach at times. Not only does the show proceed in flashback, but both apartments share the set — the characters are in the same space without being in the same room — which is more confusing than anything else. And keep an eye on the overhead fan, which changes speed and direction at key moments.”
The director’s staging is creative, given the play is about time, distance, life, and faith, however one can see how it may be confusing at times. The play takes place in two apartments that are built on the stage, where the actors can be right next to each other, but far away at the same time. The well-delivered scenes on stage sometimes occur simultaneously, but they also freeze in time, which shows off the skills of the lighting designer, David Weiner’s and sound designer, Darron L. West, according to the WashingtonExaminer.
Many recent plays on Broadway include religious themes, such as “The Book of Mormon,” “Sister Act,” “Godspell,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Leap of Faith.” “Grace” joins the ranks as a thought-provocing, dark comedy with dramatic staging and tragic elements. Though the show begins with the scene of someone holding a gun and bodies on stage, humor emerges from the tragic staging of the production.
The initial reviews of the play were decidedly mixed. Given that the play explores faith from several different perspectives, the subject may not be for everyone. Some reporters have reviewed the acting as exceptional. Others noted a lack of subtlety or the small cast being swallowed by a large stage. Critics generally pegged the play as dark and intriguiing with mention of confusing character development. For further information on “Grace” visit: GraceOnBroadway.com.