Theater Review: 'Storefront Church' -- 2.5 stars
"Storefront Church," a socially conscious but superficial new drama by John Patrick Shanley, marks the final chapter of a so-called "Church and State" trilogy that also includes the Pulitzer-winning "Doubt" and "Defiance."
This also marks the first show in two years to be produced at Atlantic Theater Company's main stage in Chelsea, which has been nicely refurbished to the tune of $8.3 million.
Set around the Bronx, it deals with a number of issues like the mortgage crisis, controversial land use projects and the conflicts of interest of public officials.
It begins with Ethan (Bob Dishy), a chummy older man fighting with Reed (Zach Grenier), a loan officer who is threatening to foreclose on his home. It ends with Ethan fainting, but not before giving Reed the finger.
Ethan's wife Jessie (Tonya Pinkins) then attempts to convince Donaldo Calderon (Giancarlo Esposito) the Bronx borough president, to step in on their behalf. After all, he's already working with the bank on a construction project and his mother cosigned on the loan.
Jessie took out the loan on behalf of her tenant -- a contemplative storefront preacher (Ron Cephas Jones) who is behind in rent and hasn't even held a single religious service due to a sort of emotional paralysis following Hurricane Katrina.
The engrossing first act is full of confrontational scenes. But Act Two is too sentimental, culminating in a church service with all the characters.
Shanley should not have directed the play, and it could really use some trimming and focus.
Dishy and Pinkins provide terrific comic relief, but Grenier and Esposito have the difficult task of making their characters' spiritual conversions seem genuine.