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Shows Worth Seeing:

By Craig Wright
Cort Theatre
138 W. 48th St.
Box office: (212) 239-6200

Grace is Broadway’s token nod to serious drama this fall, and since it deals rather openly with religious hypocrisy it’s wonderful to think that it might actually reach a few unsuspecting Bible-thumpers who couldn’t score tickets to The Book of Mormon. The story is about a Jesus-loving couple who move from Minnesota to Florida to invest in a chain of religious-themed hotels. As the investment goes bad so too does the couple’s relationship, and the wife draws closer to a brooding and sensitive neighbor (Michael Shannon) who was deformed in an accident. The rather straightforward and predictable triangle story is spiced up by intelligent, if not especially trenchant, discussions of fate, free will and grace. In addition, a seemingly innocuous old exterminator, drolly played by Ed Asner, floats in and out as a sort of tragicomic demiurge-cum-raissoneur. The play has a somewhat creaky Arthur Millerish feel despite its slick games with back-and-forth time-movement; it packages a neat moral conundrum in an efficient dramatic firecracker and tucks an oblique social critique into its characters’ demographics. Paul Rudd is perfectly cast as the jealous husband who wears his good looks like a dare and thinks his piety gives him license to be aggressive and arrogant, and Kate Arrington is gracefully poised in the thinly written role of his partner-victim. The reason to see this show is in the touching moments of brittle connection between Arrington and Shannon, which are moving and memorable. It’s puzzling that a play this snappily topical took eight years to reach New York--Grace’s premiere at Woolly Mammoth in Washington was in 2004—but it’s got all the ingredients of a middlebrow hit and may yet thrive as one.



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