Monday, October 15, 2012

Grace (Cort Theater)

By Harry Forbes

This is a well acted, black comedy by Craig Wright about an Evangelical Christian couple (Paul Rudd and Kate Arrington) who relocate from Minnesota to Florida in hope of opening a chain of Gospel themed motels. (“Where would Jesus stay?” is the slogan.)

As he anxiously waits for the promised financing, his neglected wife finds solace with a disfigured neighbor whose fiancee had been killed in the auto accident that maimed him. Both he and their apartment complex’s German exterminator (Ed Asner) are skeptical of the God that Rudd’s character venerates, but over the course of the intermission-less 100 minutes, attitudes change.

Dexter Bullard directs the play (first done in 2004) with admirable clarity even with the conceit of the couple and their scarred neighbor occupying the same physical space (setting by Beowulf Boritt), when, in fact, they’re in their own apartments.

Shannon has received the lion’s share of raves – and he is, indeed, superb telegraphing his character’s intense anguish – but Rudd, despite the increasingly unsympathetic character, is just as impressive. Arrington is quietly authoritative. And Asner – not a trace of his Lou Grant persona in evidence -- is outstanding as the unflappable exterminator, handling his two long monologues expertly.

In the opening scene, Wright reveals how it will all end, but there’s enough suspense along the way to hold your interest despite the initial spoiler and some overly talky stretches.

(Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street,, or (212) 239-6200; through January 6)
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