Theater review: Saving ‘Grace’

Paul Rudd and Kate Arrington star in the dark comedy “Grace.”

Are you willing to stake everything you have on a dream? In “Grace,” a married couple liquefies its worldly goods and transplants from St. Paul, Minn., to pursue a business opportunity in Central Florida. The husband strides into his new life with confidence, believing that if his faith is strong he will succeed at all he endeavors. Through prayer and evangelism, he tries to preserve and share what he’s sure he knows about the inner workings of God. But can his belief system withstand testing heretofore known only by Job?

Although the most widely known name is irreverent-humor heartthrob Paul Rudd, as the eminent head of the household, “Grace” offers an all-around impressive cast. Kate Arrington plays a dutiful Christian housewife who isn’t as well-drawn as the men but aptly demonstrates the paradox of virtue. Michael Shannon is subtly show-stealing as a disfigured and disenchanted NASA scientist;

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it’s hard to shake off his haunting, high-pitched laugh.

Multiple Emmy-winner Ed Asner, back onstage for the first time in more than two decades, only has two brief scenes as a pest-control technician — but they’re the two that perhaps most characterize the message of “Grace.” Together, the four actors exude as much presence as a larger ensemble thanks to their conviction and expertly allotted energy.

The set is contained on an oval floorboard that rotates to offer a continuously changing perspective — maximizing its modest floor space while simultaneously making the Cort Theatre feel more intimate. Two households share the living room tableau, often overlapping. It’s a keen representation of how the play toys with concepts not only of space, but also time. The play starts at the end and then skips to the start, pausing on the pivotal moments leading up to a deadly climax. It’s an ethereal, yet somehow gritty, audit of events; the audience becomes privy to these characters’ judgment day.

But is there even a God, and will he be forgiving?

‘Grace’
Cort Theatre,
138 W. 48th St.
$32-$132,
www.graceonbroadway.com


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