Photo by Don Kellogg

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Storefront Chruch

John Patrick Shanley's new work is a powder-keg.  The third and final work in his trilogy that started with Doubt, continued with Defiance, now ends with Storefront Church.  (One wonders why, given the plot, it is not named Debt).  Staged at the Atlantic Theatre Company's Linda Gross Theatre, a former church, itself, the play explores the ethics and power behind and between religion and politics and their, some would say, dangerous, others would say, rewarding intersection.

Sharp, intelligent dialogue.  Powerful performances.  Thought provoking and relevant plot.  These words don't even do the work justice.  You'll take a side.  It doesn't matter which one, but you'll take a side.

Bob Dishy is deliciously funny as Ethan Goldklang.  Giancarlo Esposito helms the tense production with aplomb as Bronx borough president, Donaldo Calderon.  Zach Grenier is pitch-perfect in his portrayal of fallen banker, Reed Van Druyten.  Ron Cephas Jones takes on the stoic, angry, and conflicted reverend, Chester Kimmich.  Jordan Lage plays the role of bank CEO Tom Raidenberg with aplomb.

I had high hopes for Tonya Pinkins in this production and they were dashed.  Specifically I was quite annoyed at Mr. Shanley's choice to have her speak with a Puerto Rican accent.  She was terrible at that and it would have been very simple to have her speak like an old black woman instead  - after all - she is black and we know she can do it from her award winning performance in Caroline or Change.  That alone could have turned her performance from disappointing and mediocre to pivotal and powerful and it would not have affected the plot in any significant way.

Will this one transfer to Broadway?  Doubt certainly did.  Defiance did not (and probably didn't deserve it).  Change the name to Debt (it's catchier), throw out a few elongated scene changes, and maybe skip the music, and you may just have Broadway's next hit.  After all, off-Broadway is the new Broadway testing ground these days.