Rena Cherry Brown & Katie Graviss Bechtler. Photo: Bunbury Theatre
Grace & Glorie
By Tom Ziegler
Directed by Skylar Vest
Review by Brian Kennedy
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Brian Kennedy. All right reserved.
Superb acting and direction while tackling a topic that is never easy leads to a wonderful production of Grace and Glorie by Bunbury Theatre.
This two-person show features Rena Cherry Brown as Grace Stiles, a 90-year-old on her deathbed who decided to return home and spend her final days there instead of in a hospital. Katie Graviss Bechtler is Glorie Whitmore, a volunteer with a hospice who meets with Grace. Meanwhile, both ladies cope with extremely personal struggles throughout their ever-increasing and precious time together.
The most prominent issue the ladies face is death and life’s meaning. This is never an easy topic for any theatre experience, but the well-written script allows for moments of contemplation, insight, and some light-hearted moments to handle the topic with sensibility and maturity.
Brown and Graviss take that script, and their respective characters, and match that sensibility and maturity. They take turns playing the straight woman vs. comic in the light-hearted moments, and, in the more emotion-filled moments, give the correct intensity, or lack thereof, to get the point across effectively. Through this, the duo shows great chemistry with one another. At the same time, they relate the story to the audience, drawing them in with each earned laugh or tear.
That relationship is especially clear when Graviss’ Glorie burns her hands on a pot. In response, Grace replies, “A watched pot never boils.” That line was said in unison with several members of the mostly older audience. Those audience members obviously did not know the script, but they knew the lesson.
The well-paced show and the ability of Brown and Graviss to live within their characters is a result of fine, quality directing from Skylar Vest. Previously, he was a production assistant and assistant director on other Bunbury plays. Here’s hoping he gets more opportunities to direct.
Special kudos to the production crew, especially set designer Bob Bush, for making the set seem very realistic. Several members of the older audience engaged in conversations about how certain aspects of the set (the refrigerator and oven) reminded them of their homes while growing up.
Bunbury’s Grace and Glorie is not the easiest show to experience due to the issue of death as its focus. However, thanks to an all-around wonderful effort, everyone involved handles the subject matter with, well, grace.
Grace & Glorie
April 12, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27 @ 7:30pm
April 14, 21, 28 @ 2:00pm
No show Saturday, April 13th – Thunder over Louisville.
Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for Louisville.com and Examiner.com from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.