For some it’s sunrise; for others it’s sonrise.
The way your brain rushes to spell that word puts you in one of two camps the characters of playwright Craig Wright’s GRACE inhabit.
Steve (Joe Lino) and Sara (Lara Berner Taylor) are a married Evangelical couple transplanted to Florida from Minnesota to pursue Steve’s dream of launching a lucrative gospel-themed hotel with a slogan “Where would Jesus Stay?”
Their next door neighbor Sam (Evan Linder), a NASA scientist by trade, is barely coping with his grief and guilt from losing his fiancée in a truck-car crash while she was driving. Their building’s exterminator Karl (Walter Brody), who steals every scene he is in, is a survivor of Nazi cruelty and no stranger to grappling with the BIG issues. We know this collision of world views doesn’t end well, because that ending is actually the first scene as soon as the lights go on to create the virtual curtain rise.
Wright’s script is compact and neat, touching all the important guideposts along the river dividing believers vs. agnostics vs. atheists. For those whose hearts are set afire by these religious issues ,the story is a tasty buffet. For the rest of us, or at least in this writer's view, GRACE may come across more as a tidy script, rather than as one that transports us to a new place, as compelling theater can sometimes do.
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That said, there is no shortage of theater sizzle when it comes to the acting talent and creative team. Pauline Oleksy’s set design is so convincing you too may be tempted to call your good friend in Coral Springs to ask if she donated her living room furniture to Interrobang. Ominous music that presages this play’s beginning and end (same) – Sound Design Erik Siegling — is hauntingly appropriate. The way in which director Georgette Verdin moves the neighbors through one space as if it were two apartments, helps to underline a theme of the two disparate worlds of the protagonists in the story.
More than anything, it is the performances that make GRACE a Recommended Best Play pick. All four roles present these actors with challenges of keeping their character real. They ace these tests with grace.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Cast: Walter Brody as Karl, Evan Linder as Sam, Joe Lino as Steve and ITP ensemble member Laura Berner Taylor* as Sara
Production Team: Pauline Oleksy (scenic design), Noël Huntzinger* (costume designer), Richie Vavrina (lighting design), Erik Siegling (sound design/original music), Melanie Hatch (props design), Brynne Barnard* (assistant director), Lindsay Bartlett (dialect coach), Jeremiah Barr (make-up design), Claire Yearman* (violence direction) and Melanie Kulas (stage manager).
Thru June 3
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm
Saturdays at 2 pm & 7:30 pm
Sundays at 2 pm
The Athenaeum Theatre (Studio 2)
2936 N. Southport Ave.