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Coach House show features ‘stunning performances’

10/3/2013 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Two women make discoveries about death in ‘Grace and Glorie’

Maureen Estelle Guerin-Johnson (Grace) and Holly Humes (Gloria) star in Coach House Theatre’s “Grace and Glorie.”
Photo: Scott Custer
WEST AKRON — Coach House Theatre opened its 2013-14 season with stunning performances by the lead actors in “Grace and Glorie,” which is on stage through Oct. 13.

“Grace and Glorie” challenges audience members as two women battle end-of-life crises. In this story, a young social worker, Gloria (Holly Humes), visits the remote cabin of a 90-year-old hospice patient, Grace (Maureen Estelle Guerin-Johnson), and ends up receiving far more help than she gives.

Grace and Gloria come from different worlds. Grace lives in a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She heats her house and cooks with a wood-burning stove. She eats a hard-boiled egg for breakfast and a Velveeta cheese sandwich for other meals. She has just returned from the hospital and knows she will soon die.

Grace calls Gloria by a pet name, Glorie. Glorie has had the best of everything — she was a partner in a major law firm in New York City and owned an expensive car. But, when her husband wanted to move to Virginia, she tagged along and now volunteers with Hospice, an organization with volunteers who help people who are dying. Glorie volunteered to work with Grace.

But, Grace will not go gently into that good night. Grace has spunk. She refuses to sleep because she wants to be awake when death approaches.

The two women fight and, finally, realize their mutual love. Despite the talk about death, these women deliver laugh lines that brought big guffaws from the audience. The show is a crowd-pleaser.

Both actors are at the top of their form. Both usually play morose characters. Despite the umbrella covering of death, both performers seem to enjoy the dark comedy in the script. 

Director Terry Burgler helped his performers bring these two dissimilar women to life and made both of them difficult, cantankerous and truly lovable.

Playwright Tom Ziegler wrote two intriguing characters and placed them in a situation that has no easy way out. Unfortunately, Ziegler didn’t cut the script. The performance runs two-and-a-half hours, including intermission. 

Ziegler wrote several exceptional scenes. In a section near the end of the play, Grace makes a video recording for her distant relative, Luanne. This is the only relative who writes to Grace. In this scene, Grace expresses her love for Luanne and gives her advice. In her will, Grace plans to give Luanne about $50,000 to use for a university education. Grace thinks an education will free her relative to do something important with her life.

The outstanding performances are worth the price of admission.

For ticketing information, call 330-434-7741.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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