Storefront Church

  • Our critic's rating:
    June 1, 2012
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    (Review by Tulis McCall)

    Okay, I don’t know what is in the water people are drinking lately, but I am noticing a lot of going by way of Robin Hood’s barn. John Patrick Shanley, who knows what a point is and how to make it, is suddenly shooting buckshot.

    The title location of Storefront Church is located in the bottom floor of a Bronx brownstone. Chester Kimmich (Ron Cephus Jones) is the guiding light of the church and his wattage is pretty low. It is so low that all he can see is the hole that has opened up in front of him. He is stalled out, and if he doesn’t get an answer soon, there will be no future for this little church. The couple who owns the building Ethan Goldklang (Bob Dishy) and his wife, Jesse Cortez (Tonya Pinkins) are also looking for answers. In particular they are looking for an answer as to what they can do to stop the bank foreclosing on their home. To that end Ethan has a meeting with the loan officer of the bank Reed Van Druyten (Zach Grenier) that upsets him so much he has a heart attack on the spot that leaves him shaken but not debilitated. Actually Van Druyten is in rougher shape because he still bears the scars of the night his ex-wife shot him in the face. Everyone has something, don’t they?

    Meanwhile Jesse pursues her own avenue of defense in the person of Donaldo Calderone (Giancarlo Esposito), the Bronx Borough President, whose mother promised Jesse that that Donaldo would help. Seems as though the reason that Jesse and Ethan are in arrears is that they Reverend Kimmich $30,000 to turn their ground floor into a Pentacostal chapel. And it also seems that Donaldo’s mother co-signed to loan. After some serious arm twisting, Donaldo approaches a bank officer, Tom Raidenberg (Jordan Lage) for a chat. Raidenberg will need support for a proposed mall in the Bronx, and might be interested in bit of Quid Pro Quo.

    Donaldo also follows the course of due diligence and pas a visit to Reverend Kimmich at the end of the first act, where the two men get into a theological/philosophical wrestling match that goes from zero to 60 in about 10 seconds.

    Once we have the Usual Suspects lined up like ducks in a firing rage, they all show up for the inaugural service at the Storefront.

    By far, Shanley’s strongest scenes are in the first act. The dual between Ethan and Van Druyten is a perfectly pitched battle between a corporation and a human being. Anyone who has made a telephone call Amtrak (or any other company) in the past decade would appreciate it. This scene crackles.

    But when Shanley takes us down the road of religion the colors get murky as does the dialogue. As a matter of fact the dialogue gets downright preachy. At the church the lines are drawn in magic marker. Everyone has a place and everyone has a purpose. It is predicable. The only ray of spontaneity is Van Druyten, who has never been to a church and therefore comports himself in a way that only the unknowing can do. It is a refreshing addition.

    The actors hold up the ball as much as they can, in particular Bob Dishy and Zach Grenier who are sharp as a razor and understated at the same time. But the writing has most of them trapped into iconic stories from which they never break free.

    And the new Atlantic is filled with techno miracles on the stage, which must be a joy to play with. Furniture flies in and out, up and down, back and forth. This doesn’t affect the content of the play, but it’s fun to watch.

    "Unwieldy but affecting new play."
    Charles Isherwood for New York Times

    "Modestly intriguing but lacks the taut, fine-tuned storytelling that made “Doubt” so compelling and provocative."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "A little clunky, a little obvious, but also earnest and generous. And that alone is praise-worthy."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "Mixed blessing of a play."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "Advances in fits and starts — mostly fits — and offers a simplistic notion of good and evil. But it's well-acted, and has a sweetness that lets it go down easy."
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "Possibly a director other than the playwright could make Shanley’s lumpy, underdone stew more digestible but even so it’s not much of play."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "Wordy, unfocused and unresolved."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Variety