Thursday, October 30, 2014

Grand Concourse ***

In her new play now in previews at Playwrights Horizons, Heidi Schreck displays a talent for creating vivid characters whom she treats with compassion and humanity. Shelley (Quincy Tyler Bernstine), a 39-year-old nun who runs a soup kitchen in the Bronx, is undergoing a crisis of faith. Oscar (Bobby Moreno), the handsome Hispanic handyman, affects a working-class macho facade that he doesn’t entirely feel. Frog (Lee Wilkof), a homeless regular client, struggles against mental illness. When Emma (Ismenia Mendes), a troubled 19-year-old with a reckless streak, begins work as a volunteer, her behavior has an impact on the other three, especially Shelley. The play is a series of short scenes, punctuated by blackouts, that gradually reveal the characters as they perform their jobs. Many vegetables are chopped. Director Kip Fagan (Schreck’s husband) does an excellent job of choreographing the work sequences. The cast is uniformly excellent. Rachel Hauck’s set design really looks like a working kitchen. Jessica Pabst’s costumes suit each character. The play examines issues of faith and forgiveness, the motivations for doing good, the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of help given, the extremes to which neediness can lead, and the sense of workplace community. The results are both enlightening and entertaining. I do wish that Schreck had further clarified the reasons for Emma's strong impact on Shelley. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes; no intermission.

No comments: