SF Playhouse Welcomes Holiday Season with Storefront Church
Borough President (Gabriel Marin) begins to “feel alive” in Storefront Church
Rating: (5/5 stars)
San Francisco Playhouse presents Storefront Church, the third play in John Patrick Shanley’s “Church and State” trilogy. This play stands up to the two previous plays–the Pulitzer Prize winning Doubt (2004) and Defiance (2006). Here the playwright grapples with conflict between greed and redemption.
Brilliantly directed by Joy Carlin and featuring an accomplished cast, Storefront Church is a beautifully constructed play. Thrown together by a mortgage crisis, a basically decent, ethically conflicted Bronx borough President (Gabriel Marin) and a high minded preacher who’s a Katrina refugee from New Orleans (Carl Lumbly) square off in an intense confrontation about their individual commitments to their social and spiritual beliefs.
Gabriel Marin is scrappy and cynical as an up and coming politician Donaldo whose somewhat naïve constituent, Jessie Cortez (a whimsically funny Gloria Weinstock) comes to him for help with an imminent foreclosure after ill advisedly taking out a second mortgage so the preacher could renovate her first floor storefront into a church.
Jessie believes the preacher (strongly portrayed by Carl Lumbly), even though he hasn’t paid her back any money in ten months. After her husband (a down on his luck, hard working, elderly accountant played mainly for laughs by Ray Reinhardt) has a heart attack in front of the loan office, Jessie is determined to get Donaldo to intercede with the bank.
Rod Gnapp is excellent as Loan Officer, Reed. Derek Fischer, as a senior bank officer, plays his part with a well-tuned false heartiness.
When all six characters come together for a Sunday morning service in the humble storefront church, the outcome is both surprising and satisfying. Even a shabby room can become a community—a sanctuary for respite from what the preacher calls “mindless activity” and “organized greed.”
All of the play’s wonder is made possible with Bill English’s remarkable set, Abra Berman’s costumes and David K.H. Elliott’s lighting. The entire production is a delightful Christmas gift from the remarkable San Francisco Playhouse.
Storefront Church runs November 26, 2013-January 11, 2014. SF Playhouse is located at 450 Post Street (2nd floor of Kensington Park Hotel, b/n Powell and Mason), San Francisco. Performances are held Tuesday-Thursday at 7 p.m. and Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinees are 3 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday with an added 7 p.m. Sunday performance on December 22. No show December 24, 25 and January 1. For tickets, call 415-677-9596 or go online at www.sfplayhouse.org.
Coming up next at SF Playhouse will be Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth and directed by Bill English January 22-March 8, 2014.
Flora Lynn Isaacson