By Daniel Skora
The Purple Rose Theatre opens their 26th season with the World Premier of Carey Crim’s “Morning After Grace”. The play is a comedy about the difficulties involved in pursuing a romantic relationship when previous ones have not produced the kind of personal fulfillment one had hoped for.
By the looks of it, the newly awakened Angus (Randolph Mantooth) is going to be in for a rough day. The morning-after blues are hitting him hard. First, he’s got an enormous hangover from too much celebrating the night before. The second may be even worse than the hangover. As he enters the living room of his nicely furnished condo, the comforter scrunched up in the corner of the sofa begins to move. Almost at once, a head pops out and it all starts coming back to him. The depressive gloom of yesterday’s funeral, the drinking to both remember and forget the deceased, and the attractive women he brought home to share his bed. And there she is before him with a friendly, plaintive smile on her face and not a stitch of clothing on her body.
Her name is Abigail (Michelle Mountain) and she turns out to be a more loquacious sort than Angus, who tends to be sullen and deliberate with his responses. Much of the first half hour or so of the show is a verbal sparing between the two as to who is more responsible for the awkward situation they both find themselves in. And more importantly, could this awkward situation be something more than just a one-night fling?
Abigail and Angus are getting to know more about each other than they could ever have gotten to know last night between the sheets. Both of them are over 60. Angus in fact has already hit the big 70. Each is still healthy and good-looking. Abigail is divorced and Angus has recently become a widower. Before they can get on to the business of what to do about their situation, they’re interrupted by Ollie (Lynch Travis), an African-American who lives in a neighboring condo unit. Ollie is a former Detroit Tiger baseball player (Crim is a Michigan playwright and resident artist at the Purple Rose Theatre, so it’s never a surprise to find references to local people and places in her scripts) and he’s got a situation of his own that needs resolving.
“Morning After Grace” has a lot to do with wrong assumptions, mistaken identities, and the difficulty adults sometime have in communicating with others. Whether or not the three are able to resolve their problems through all the twists and turns the plotline takes is as hilarious as it is touching and what this comedy is all about. Crim has written a script that’s mature, witty, and of special interest to those over sixty who find themselves in need of recalibrating their lives.
The humor is sharp and biting, especially when the cynical and acrimonious Angus is doing the talking. Guy Sanville directs and he’s cast three of the areas finest. Mountain, who’s a director’s dream, is superb. The play gives her ample opportunity to showcase both her considerable dramatic talents and her flair for comedy of both the spoken and the physical kind. Travis makes his character seem friendlier and more compassionate than one would expect for someone with problems that parallel those of Abigail and Angus.
Mantooth’s deadpan delivery is enormously effective and extremely funny in the front half of the play and the exchanges between Abigail and are priceless. But as the play progresses, the chemistry between him and Mountain never quite reaches the level where one hopes for them to become a serious item. That’s due in large part to playwright Crim paying more attention to the comedic aspects of her script and less on the romantic. Abigail deserves a man who truly appreciates her and is able to put his past behind him. Angus may be a wronged man, but with his insensitivity towards Abigail taking up such a large part of the play, it seems disingenuous when he finally moves to wanting (needing?) her. It’s difficult, in the end, to think of him as being able to give Abigail, whom the audience can’t help but love and root for, the kind of love and relationship she deserves. Opposites do attract, but one secretly wishes that Abigail had found a more giving, passionate, even spunkier man.
The living room/kitchen area of Angus’s well-appointed apartment is by designer Bartley H. Bauer. Costumes are by Shelby Newport, lighting by Dana L. White, and sound courtesy of Tom Whalen.
“Morning After Grace” runs through December 17th. Tickets are available by calling the Purple Rose box office at 734.433.7673 or go online at www.PurpleRoseTheatre.org. The theatre is located at 137 Park Street in Chelsea.