| go to entry page | | go to other departments | more theater reviews



Web nytheatre-wire.com

Paulanne Simmons

Looking for God Off-Broadway

Lynn Redgrave and Oscar Isaac in MCC Theater's production of "Grace." Photo by Joan Marcus.

Directed by Joseph Hardy
Presented by MCC Theater
Lucille Lortel Theatre
121 Christopher Street
From Jan. 23, 2008
$60 (212) 279-4200 or www.MCCTheater.org
Tues. & Wed 7 p.m., Thurs. & Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2 & 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m.
Closes March 8, 2008
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Feb. 9, 2008

What is Grace? In Mick Gordon and AC Grayling's play by the same name, now making its American premiere at the Lucille Lortel Theater, grace is two things. It's the name of the principal character, a mother, wife, professor and confirmed atheist. It's also that state one achieves through what the dictionary calls "the unmerited love and favor of God toward mankind."

In this play it eventually becomes clear that even people who don't believe may eventually reach a state of grace.

"Grace" is a rare and brilliant combination of philosophical and religious musing in a family drama. It seems to be effortlessly directed by Joseph Hardy, who benefits from a top-notch cast headed by Lynn Redgrave as the acerbic and cynical Grace Friedman.

A strong and opinionated woman, Grace takes her atheism as seriously as some people hold their belief in God. Her solidly constructed world comes tumbling down when her son Tom (Oscar Isaac) announces he wants to become an Episcopal minister.

Tom's father, Tony (Philip Goodwin), a renegade Jew, is also shocked but isn't nearly as distressed as his wife. After all, he muses, "Who's going to take a priest named Friedman seriously?"

Tom's girlfriend, Ruth (K.K. Moggie) is unhappy about Tom's decision, as well. But her distress is more due to her personal insecurities. She worries that Tom's religion will be so important to him that it will push her into second place, a position she doesn't think she will be able to tolerate.

Despite Grace's frequent ill-humor, her husband is always tender and loving. His sense of humor (Goodwin's comedic skills are as impressive as his dramatic abilities) never fails.

Tom tries valiantly and futilely to make his mother and girlfriend understand his religious journey. Before he can succeed and before the family can resolve its differences, tragedy strikes. Instead of bringing everyone together, this tragedy pushes everyone apart and heightens the conflict.

"Grace" is filled with religious arguments, principally William Paley's Watchmaker analogy, which states that God exists because the design of the earth implies a designer and that designer must be God. But Grace insists that if there is a watchmaker, it is a blind watchmaker who didn't really know what he was making.

Not surprisingly, considering current events, "Grace" also has a political message. Grace is convinced that religion is the cause of much of the evil in the world. She laments that the greatest power in the world, the United States, is being run by religious fundamentalists.

But despite all the theorizing in "Grace," what makes this play work so well is the overpowering acting that makes all the characters so real and their pain so acutely felt. It is this element of humanity--Goodwin's gentle humor, Isaac's earnest explanations, and above all, Redgrave's towering dignity and vulnerability--that gives "Grace" such emotional power.


| lobby | search | home | cue-to-cue | discounts | welcome | film | dance | reviews |
| museums | NYTW mail | recordings | coupons | publications | classified |