Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

As Oscar Wilde once said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.”

Artistic Director Bill English and Director Joy Carlin took Wilde’s aphorism seriously when they envisioned their production of STOREFRONT CHURCH.

Starting with a script by one of America’s premier living playwrights—John Patrick Shanley—it only gets better.

Shanley is probably best known for his Academy Award winning screenplay MOONSTRUCK and his Pulitzer Prize winning DOUBT—outside of Stockholm, you cannot earn higher accolades than that.

A stage design by Bill English defies all of Euclid’s Postulates; it spins; it slides and it looks like it belongs in an Edward Hopper or a Gottfried Helnwein painting—when the show closes, he should auction it off at Sotheby’s.

Joy Carlin skimmed some of the West Coast’s best stage talent from San Jose to Ashland.

Rod Gnapp, a stalwart of Bay Area stages—most memorable for TRIPLE X LOVE ACT by Cintra Wilson at the Magic, MAD FOREST by Caryl Churchill at Berkeley Rep and most recently BURIED CHILD at the Magic—is very moving as Reed, even if only half of Rod’s face actually does move in the play, (you’ll have to see the show to understand why) he’s highly animated as he comes to a slow explosive boil.

Carl Lumbly—most recently seen at the SF Playhouse in THE MOTHER F_ _ KER WITH THE HAT—is not only one of the Bay Area’s finest, Carl has strutted and fretted his hour upon New York City stages; Carl plays the forlorn Pastor of the Storefront Church who has yet to find his pastor voice, a pastor message or some pastoral sheep; needless to say the felt is showing in the bottom of his collection plate and the rent is overdue.

Gabriel Marin—an actor who works a frantic 54 weeks a year—is one of the Bay Area’s two funniest comic actors. Gabriel, who can ladle out a Napolitano accent as thick as Pasta Fazoo, reaches energy levels on stage that are best measured in mega or gigawatts. Excitement, high anxiety and rapid fire talking are Gabe’s strongest suits; give him a minor crisis and he can turn it in Vesuvio the Comedy.

STOREFRONT CHURCH is a feel good play; ideal for the holidays; it has that Frank Capra “life is only good because people do matter” theme that is guaranteed to lift your spirits, warm your heart and make you want to sing Christmas songs as you sit in gridlock traffic, look for parking and feed your VISA statements into the document shredder.

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