Saturday, February 23, 2008


At least the actors were good. Grace is about an atheist--named Grace, of course--and her struggle to deal with her son's desire to become an Episcopalian priest. Dealing with it apparently means constantly haranguing him about the evils and illogic of religion in a thoroughly shrill and unpleasant way.

I'm not a religious person; I don't believe in God or have a whole lot of patience for organized religion. I think it does more harm than good and is, well, illogical. So in theory I should have had quite a bit of sympathy for Grace. In reality, whenever she went on one of her tirades and/or argued with her son I wanted to stab myself in the ears with my knitting needles.

It's not only that Grace is such an unpleasant character though. It's that she doesn't have anything particularly interesting or insightful to say. Nor does her son, for that matter. One family member wants to live her life by the rules of logic and the other is following a path which even he can't explain logically. There's an good play to be made of that. Unfortunately this wasn't it, and that's mostly due to the laziness of the writing.

There's an overly fussy structure to the play where important things happen off stage, as if it's too much effort to actually show us the interesting bits. What's more, the characters don't seem to have any thoughts that haven't been expressed more eloquently time and time again. At one point the son uses the Matrix as a metaphor. At another point his fiance, Ruth, listens to Ani Difranco's "Untouchable Face" and then explains to Grace that sometimes it's easier for her to use other people's words. Easier for the playwright as well, I imagine, but it sure as hell isn't interesting or illuminating for the audience. I mean, when I was about 15 I loved that song and Ani Difranco--after all, she's pretty much the patron saint of angry teenage girls--but it's not exactly an effective use of her music.

In the end the play takes an interesting topic and doesn't do much of anything with it. The whole thing feels rather thin and convenient. The characters aren't fully realized and so the moments of emotional catharsis leave you cold and the closure they achieve at the end doesn't feel earned. That could be partially excused if the ideas presented in the play were enough to hold it together. Instead though, we're left with regurgitated cliches presented in an uninteresting manner. So really, what's the point.

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