Theatre Review: Storefront Church at Theatrical Outfit
By Manning Harris
Theatrical Outfit is running John Patrick Shanley's comedy/drama "Storefront", featuring some of Atlanta's best actors, extended through May 3. The director is David de Vries.
Yes, that John Patrick Shanley: Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Moonstruck", and Pulitzer and Tony-winning author of Doubt," You probably saw the film version with Meryl Streep and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman; and who has not seen the delightful "Moonstruck, which won Oscars for Cher and Olympia Dukakis?
However, that was then. If the great Tennessee Williams falter from time to time (and he did), so can Shanley. "Storefront Church" is the third of his so-called "church and state" trilogy, which includes "Doubt" and "Defiance." Though well-intentioned and quite pro-
vocative on several levels (it had a short off-Broadway run in 2012), its hard to believe the auther of "Moonstruck" and "Doubt", both
so tight and riveting that you wouldn't change a word, created this interesting but top heavy play.
However, Theatrical Outfit's timing is impeccable: The current news is all abuzz with young CEO Dan Price's announcing that all his 120-member staff will receive immediate, impressive raises, while Price himself is taking a gigantic cut in his own large salary. You see, massive wealth and income inequality is one of Shanley's themes.
So are question of religion, ethics, and spirituality; they're all worthwhile subjects, but they tend to make the play needlessly weighty when it should have wings.
"Storefront Church" tells the story of Bronx Borough President Donaldo Calderon (Anthony Rodriguez), who is forced by the mortgage crisis to confront a rudderless local minister namedChester Kimmich (E. Roger Mitchell), who won't or can't pay his mortage to Jessie (Donna Biscoe), who's got a sick but very feisty husband (Ethan, played by Clayton Landey).
Ethan goes to see Reed (Joe Knezevich), who oft-repeated "I'm an officer of the bank" is both comical and pathetic, Reed, who's been shot in the face by his ex-wife, is deaf in one ear, partially blind in one eye, and also has an odd speech tic. He's miserable and a mess.
Somehow they all end up in bank CEO Tom Raidenberg's (Tom Key) office, though not at the same time, and finally meet at a church service, of sorts, at Chester's storefront curch, which is actually the ground floor of Jessie's condo.
I could go on and on with character and plot permuttaions, but I shan't be a spoiler. And it's more enlightening and fun to mention the show's assets.
First, playwright Shanley has not lost is talent for witty lines (Ethan: Either I just became a membe of the Divine Plan for Salvation Church, or you just became a secular Jew.") or quirky
characters that you can root for.
Second, the actors. The cast is a virtual who's who of the best actors in Atlanta; I'll simply list them in the program order: Donna Biscoe, Clayton Landy, Tom Key, Joe Knezevich, E. Roger Mitchell, Anthony P Rodriguez. In "Storefront Church" Mr. Rodriguez may be first among equals, and that's saying something. Ms. Biscoe and Mr. Mitchell are also excellent. You see this play for the actors, first.
Preacher Chester: "This soul we share. We got to take care of each other. Do youhear what I'm saying? No argument here. This may be the ultimate theme.