MCC Theater Rocks
Grace is the latest play from MCC playing at the Lucielle Lortell in the West Village. I love the West Village even if some of the buildings are crumbling. I typically use TDF to get my cheapo tickets to plays but I do subscribe to two theater series this year - MCC and Roundabout. I'd also love to add Atlantic Theater but budget limitations reign me in.
Grace is a play about strong, intelligent and stubborn characters - four family members thrown into an intellectual sparring match over god, theology, love, life, resentment, faith, and forgiveness. Grace (Lynn Redgrave) is the strong matriarch of the family, an internationally recognized scientist and atheist, although she's prefer to be labeled a naturalist. Her husband, Tony (Philip Goodwin), is ever so patient and lovingly supportive without being a complete doormat. Ruth (K.K. Moggie) is her son's girlfriend, a lawyer, smart and independent. But Grace's son, Tom (Oscar Isaac), serves as the wall she worships at, struggles against, and wishes to move. Tom is built from his mother's will and intellect but, as any student of science learns, seeks out his own hypothesis to test regarding what he might believe in. His interest in priesthood and Christian theology takes him both emotionally and physically away from his mother, Grace searches for some way to connect again to a son she feel she's lost. Her struggle is compared and contrasted with Ruth's anger and love towards Tony. Intermixed in this drama is god, or the concept of God, interestingly made literal by a neurological stimulation experiment in Canada which Grace is recruited as a subject. So is there a (G)god and if so, what is it exactly to each individual and to community and culture?
Mick Gordon and AC Grayling wrote a wonderfully woven non-linear story of a family at crisis with their beliefs. Just as if dropped into any family you didn't know, the play reveals pieces of their lives and stories and you have to put the pieces together. Luckily all the pieces come together by the end but it is the ride which is more important. The entire cast is superb, strong and supportive on stage. During one scene in the second act, both Moggie, followed by Redgrave, deliver powerful performances as they release some of the anger they hold inside about Tom; the performances brought tears to their eyes and mine. One theater patron, upon exiting, complained that the play seemed like a 'sledgehammer' (used the word three times in less than a minute) which I'd have to take exception to. While certain moments in the play have Grace and Tom delivering preachy yet heartfelt lectures on the dangers of a world with god and without one, this emoting is perfectly appropriate for their professions and positions. Grace's lectures are staged as if delivering them to her class in an academic setting and Tom delivers his to his theological audience, perhaps even just to himself. Piece by piece family conflicts are linked together and start to explain a mystery of individual gods and how one can be uplifted, burdened and even angered by such a concept. I completely enjoyed this cathartic exploration through art of humanity, naturalism and theology.