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Theater review: 'Grace & Glorie' at the Colony

July 15, 2010 |  9:00 pm
GRACE&GLORIEFINAL1Director Cameron Watson has a rocky mountain row to hoe in “Grace & Glorie,” Tom Ziegler’s mushily sentimental two-hander at the Colony.

The show provides a prime opportunity to see Beth Grant, a prolific stage, screen and television actor (“No Country for Old Men,”  “The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife”) in rare form.  Otherwise, we get the uneasy feeling that we’ve seen this play done before, and better.

Grant plays “amazing” Grace, an illiterate, terminally ill 90-year-old mountain woman who has returned to her remote mountain cabin – spectacularly realized in Jeff McLaughlin’s authentically rustic set – to die.  Gloria (Melinda Page Hamilton), dubbed “Glorie” by Grace, is the Harvard-educated hospice volunteer assigned to Grace’s case.  As it turns out, Glorie bears the crushing weight of recent tragedy.  But she derives new hope from her wise old friend, whose homespun wisdom, born of her own personal hardships, proves life-affirming.

If that makes your teeth ache a bit, Watson’s staging may ease the pain.  A proven pro with sound instincts, Watson understands Southern dialect and material, as evidenced by his sensitive staging of Horton Foote’s “The Habitation of Dragons” a few seasons back.  When it comes to regional coloration, Watson knows that less is more.  That fact is lost on Ziegler, whose blatantly derivative play seems overblown and oddly condescending.  A natural-born performer with unerring instincts, Grant plays Grace close to the bone and very funny.  As for Hamilton, she’s wispy where she should be city-brittle, yet she stands her ground next to Grant -- and that’s saying quite a bit.

– F. Kathleen Foley

“Grace & Glorie,” Colony, 555 N. Third St., Burbank. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  Ends Sunday.  $20-$42.  (818) 558-7000, Ext. 15.  www.colonytheatre.org  Running time:  2 hours, 20 minutes.

Photo: Beth Grant and Melinda Page Hamilton. Credit: Michael Lamont.

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