Wed 29th July to Sat 1st August
Devoted salesman, devoted husband, devoted Christian. Steve Hutchinson has everything he's prayed for. A life of worship and loyalty has given him a beautiful wife, a new home in sunny Florida, and a $14 million investment in his business plan. Or so he believes. But belief is best measured when it is tested. His wife is unhappy, their new neighbour is lost and events seem to conspire against Steve. We are all equal in the eyes of the Lord, but some may be more equal than others. The clock is ticking. It's over before it begins.
Darkly comic, tragic and provocative, Grace is the story of four people's experience of belief, justice and love.
“Are you a believer?” For Steve Hutchinson, who has apparently prayed his way to success, the answer is obvious. The strength of his belief is such that he tries to bring everyone around him into the shared delusion. As his faith is tested by the events leading to the play’s inexorable conclusion, it is increasingly all he has to turn to; but blind faith is a very dangerous thing.
“Are you a believer?” Jordan Jackson’s intimate production challenges the audience from the outset to consider what they believe in, and how it defines them – there’s a door for “Yes” and a door for “No”. A close, minimal set keeps us close to the action, and one can’t help but react to the explosive opening scene (also the finale) in which Steve, a broken man, shoots his wife, her lover, and finally himself. This is a play concerned with big questions about love and justice, and grace in the religious sense of the mercy given to us by God. It runs the risk of being weighed down in theology and telegraphed metaphors. Thankfully, the strong performances lift the characters out of archetypes and underscore the real, human tragedy of the events that unfold. I was particularly taken with Georgia Kelly’s Sara, who is the story’s emotional centre, and the genuine tenderness of her romance with Sam is devastating because we know what happens next. Despite the darkness, there is also a strong vein of humour running through the play, though the laughter it draws is a little nervous.
Grace is smart, and it’s stylish, too. The cacophony of the opening scene is achieved through a combination of projection and effective sound design. The ‘rewind’ effect at the beginning is particularly slick, and every time the play interferes with chronology, it does it well. The soundtrack consists almost exclusively of a ticking clock, relentless and ripe with symbolism. It reminds us of the inevitability of the ending at the same time as it grounds us in the minutiae of these people’s lives. On occasion, the ticking bleeds into scenes. The effect is ominous. This is theatre of catastrophe, and tension runs through the entire play. Even Steve’s frequent beatific grin is just the right side of manic (to begin with), and Sam is one of the most anxious characters ever written for stage. The set functioning as both apartments, sometimes simultaneously, is a reminder that in such close quarters, a collision is unavoidable. (That we don’t ever confuse the two apartments is a result of clever lighting.)
Grace is a darkly compelling tragicomedy about faith and what it does to people. It’s intense, troubling, funny, complex, and lays its characters bare without pity. As Steve starts to crack under the pressure of his own faith, you might find yourself hoping for things to end differently this time. But it’s far too late for that.