Last week I attended a performance at Atlantic Theater Company of "Storefront Church," a new play by John Patrick Shanley, who directed the performance.
The premise is that a woman living in the Bronx has fallen behind on her mortgage payments and faces eviction from the house she owns. She has been allowing an itinerant minister, a refugee from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to use her ground-level storefront as a church, but after months in residence there he has yet to hold a public service, so emotionally devastated was he…. The woman, an African-American, is married to an outspoken secular Jew, who goes on her behalf to the bank to try to work a deal with the loan officer, and things take off from there as the woman then goes to the Bronx Borough president to seek an intervention on her behalf. Of the plot I'll say no more, other than to comment that I found it interesting and provocative, with a good leavening of comedy to relieve the serious themes.
The small cast did an excellent job. Bob Dishy made a total meal of the part of the secular Jewish husband, Ethan Goldberg. Tonya Pinkins played the wife, Jessie Cortez. Zach Grenier (familiar from his continuing role on TV's "The Good Wife"), played Reed Van Druyten, the bank loan officer, whose peculiar past requires him to screw up his face in funny ways. Ron Cephas Jones played Chester Kimmich, the minister. Giancarlo Esp;osito played Donaldo Calderon, Borough President of the Bronx. And Tom Raidenberg has the thankless task of playing Jordan Lage, the president of the bank who moves the plot into ghastly places – as ultimately this is a tale of political corruption.
The production is a good one. Atlantic Theater Company is in the midst of renovations of the old church on W. 20th Street in which they perform, and has made some excellent changes in the interior, especially concerning lounge space and restroom facilities. This is a worthwhile production that will make you think about what is important in life….