Monday, January 25, 2016

reviews - GRAND CONCOURSE - Theatre Artists Studio

Tom Noga, Shelby Daeffler, and Debra Rich
Photo by Mark Gluckman
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through January 31st.

 "Compassion and forgiveness are at the center of Heidi Schreck's Grand Concourse, receiving its Arizona premiere in a smart and subtle production with a gifted cast from Theatre Artists Studio. Set in a soup kitchen in the Bronx, the drama shows that all of us, whether rich or poor, religious or atheist, have flaws; and her dialogue and characters are both honest and succinct, with no extraneous moment in the swift-moving two-hour piece. Nun Shelley oversees the soup kitchen that resides in a former church on the Grand Concourse, a major roadway in the Bronx..New 19-year-old volunteer Emma arrives to help in the kitchen and, through a series of short scenes that take place over the next several months, we see how Emma proves to have both positive and negative influences on all of those around her....The cast is pretty terrific. Debra Rich's portrayal of Shelley perfectly displays the many sides of the character. ...As Emma, Shelby Daeffler is very convincing as an impulsive, out of control and just a little bit crazy college drop-out. ...Luke Gomez brings the right level of care and understanding to Oscar...As Frog, the homeless man who has made the soup kitchen his home, even sometimes camping outside in the rectory, Tom Noga is brilliant. ...Director Richard Powers-Hardt is adept in achieving authentic, moving performances from his cast and also having the scenes flow naturally and realistically. ...Grand Concourse is a play about second chances and, while it may not have all of the answers to the questions it brings up, and the ending doesn't resolve everything, it is a subtly moving and ultimately engrossing tale of faith, failure, and forgiveness. Theatre Artists Studio's production has a great cast and clear direction and the end result is especially rewarding."
 -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...more than just a closely observed portrait of unglamorous characters.... Under the direction of Richard Powers-Hardt, these actors are convincingly and compellingly enigmatic — you know, like real people are — and they take the audience on a journey to a surprisingly devastating conclusion. ...It may lack the controversial trappings of “edgy” theater, but it cuts deeper than you expect."
 - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

"GRAND CONCOURSE is a seminal work in Heidi Schreck's portfolio of plays...human struggle to ascend and to find the saint in ourselves is a thread that weaves through her writings; that religion and religious figures are her metaphor..these themes converge in a soup kitchen in the Bronx where questions about the value and cost of service to others boil and bubble. Debra Rich is superb and engrossing as Shelley the nun, who, at forty-something and having devoted her life to the poor, stirs the pot with wonderment as to whether anything she's done has made a difference. ..Her last hope for reclamation may be Emma, the distressed 19-year old who volunteers to work in the kitchen and claims to have cancer.  Shelby Daeffler delivers a bravura performance as Emma. ...Daeffler and Rich are opposite ends of a magnet that pushes and pulls their encounter to the limits of giving, forgiveness, and self-discovery.  Tom Noga and Luke Gomez add spice to the brewing stew with well-defined performances as soup kitchen denizens, both of whom benefit in different ways from Emma's apparent beneficence....Schreck's brilliance is in placing these four characters together in the cauldron of the kitchen to examine a host of questions...Shelley is compelled to ask if her service was divinely inspired or a way to avoid and distance herself from the unpleasant things of her family life. Finally, Shelley must differentiate between automatic or obligatory and genuine forgiveness...Director Richard Powers-Hardt and his solid cast deliver a perfectly balanced production of Schreck's provocative and immensely relevant masterwork. GRAND CONCOURSE will stand as one of Theatre Artists Studio's most powerful and memorable productions."
 -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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