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Friday, April 12, 2013

The Dark Side of Grace?

Next Act’s exploration of heart and spirit

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Craig Wright's Grace thrives on various elements of discomfort. Next Act Theatre deftly navigates its way through the uncomfortably odd angles of Wright's script in its production of this tragic drama.

Rick Pendzich and Libby Amato play Steve and Sara, a couple from the Midwest who have moved to Florida to work in the hotel business. Jonathan Wainwright plays a man living next door. He has had an unfortunate event in his recent past, so he is reluctant to befriend the very persistent Sara. John Kishline shows up on a few occasions as an exterminator passing through to do his job.

The tragedy that binds these characters together makes for an interesting story, but the deeper metaphysical and theological issues of predetermination and the existence of God seem substantially weak next to the interpersonal drama going on between the characters. None of the more abstract questions that the play seems interested in addressing are framed in a particularly powerful way. Thankfully, the emotional dynamic David Cecsarini conjures from the cast is engrossing and powerful enough to overcome the weakness of the play's deeper thematic elements.

Pendzich pushes his nice guy stage persona to the line of crazy and unstable. He's playing the dark side of faith and certainty, and he's doing it very, very well. His character's darkness contrasts with Amato’s strong and charming appearance in the role of his wife. Wainwright plays a vulnerable man with heart and spirit. In the wrong hands, the character of the exterminator might feel a little unnecessary, but Kishline does a good job of making the character seem absolutely essential.

Next Act Theatre's production of Grace runs through April 28. For ticket reservations, call 414-278-0765 or visit nextact.org