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'Grace': When Faith Isn't Enough

10/11/2012 11:30 pm ET | Updated Dec 11, 2012

With so much jam-packed into a 100-minute play, as well as a rotating set that doubles as the neighboring home and slow-motion replays of past events, it's anyone's wonder how playwright Craig Wright kept it all from unraveling into a confusing glob of goo. Thanks to stellar acting from his small cast portraying complex characters, Grace is saved.

Paul Rudd may lead the way, but his character Steve is actually the least complex of them all. He brings his wife to Florida for a business venture that goes predictably awry, and then their life and marriage crumble in short order. It's only when Steve and Sara meet their neighbor, Sam (played by the brilliant Michael Shannon) that their fears turn into reality. It's not Sam's fault, of course, as he, too, has worries of his own, recovering from a devastating crash that took his fiancée. But faced with the fallacy of choosing faith over all else, Sara (Kate Arrington) begins to wonder whether she's on the right path. And she winds up finding comfort in the arms of another.

The final character of the cast is Karl, an old German bug exterminator played by Ed Asner, who adds both laughter and longing. Moods can change in a split-second as someone might accidentally reference something that causes another to become unhinged; never, though, is anyone supposed to be doing it out of contempt or malice. Even at the end when Steve has hit rock bottom, and he wishes he could do it all over again, he comes across as a sympathetic character who made some mistakes by believing too much of his fellow man. If only someone -- somehow -- could have stopped him as his spiral set in. But he refused at the time to listen, and he pays the price for it later.

Perhaps then its really a play about pride, and not only grace, and the way that limitations can undo our expectations. You can't help but draw parallels between the two main men as the set serves as apartments for both of them, at once. They rotate in and out, but the core emotions of the setting remain throughout. No matter whether Steve or Sam resides there, the theme of pride permeates throughout the scenes. Only Sara can break down the walls for these two men who are not so much at odds with one another as they are vying for the life they thought they had until it was all swept out from under them.

After the fall, what's left?