Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Three's Company?

"Lights Rise on Grace" Fringe Encores at the Culture Project, September 3, 2007

I didn't get to any of the shows at this year's NY Fringe Festival during the regular run, but once again several shows have returned this month in an encore series.

Chad Beckim's "Lights Rise on Grace" tells the story of Grace, Large and Riece. It's a bizarre love triangle of race, prison, and self-deception. Grace (Ali Ahn) is the child of Chinese immigrants, seduced and at once in love with Large (Jaime Lincoln Smith), who is soon shipped off to jail for 6 years where he meets Riece (Alexander Alioto).

This minimalist production moves well under the direction of Robert O'Hara, but Mr. Beckim's script still needs a bit of work. While he does pretty well having the story jump back and forth in time to reveal certain plot points, the characters suffer a bit as a result. Most injured by this is Grace. We meet Grace in a direct- address monologue and she is forthright, honest and open, traits which all three disappear as she flashes back to her first meetings with Large. She becomes a Bronx Cio-Cio-San, barely able to speak from shyness and inexperience. Yet, in her first interaction with her parents, there is no hesitation in how she expresses herself. Ms. Ahn does the best she can with the material but is hindered early on by the writing.

As Large, Mr. Smith plays the smooth operator very well, but as the plot shifts to his time in jail and his relationship with Riece, again, things don't quite ring true.

It is Mr. Alioto's Riece that gets the full treatment. A sociopath at heart, Riece is the only character who gets a true arc through the course of the play. Mr. Alioto manages to stir empathy with this troubled man as he abuses and torments Large, and later Grace, in the name of love.

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