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Grace and Glorie

A clichéd pairing of opposites turns dying into a Hallmark production in this Bowie Community Theatre effort

Sandra Cox plays dying Grace and Jo Black Sullilvan plays her hospice caretaker Glorie. <<photo by John Nunemaker>>

Dying is one drama we all star in. This makes it an irresistible subject for playwrights, actors and directors. Grace and Glorie, now playing at Bowie Community Theatre, has death and dying as its focus and personal relationships as its theme.
    Grace is a dying woman who left hospice to return to her rural home to die alone. Glorie is a hospice volunteer who followed Grace to bring her the pain medications she had left behind. As the play progresses, you learn that Glorie is a New Yorker who misses the big city and is coping with her recent experience of losing her son in a car accident in which she was the driver. As Grace lies dying, the fraudulent developers who have bought her land are bulldozing her history right outside her room.
    For all its intentions and the earnest efforts of the cast and crew, playwright Tom Ziegler’s story plays like the Hallmark Hall of Fame production that it was. It provides a superficial and unrealistic portrait of a situation and, after offering contrived obstacles, resolves all problems all wrapped up in a nice, neat package.  Life — and death and dying — are not so facile.
    The clichéd pairing of opposites — rural/big city, older/younger woman, mother of many children/mother of one child, street smart/life smart, a life ending/a life needing re-affirmation — all clash here.
    Inaccuracies in the script are also troubling. Hospice volunteers never handle medication, so Glorie would never have delivered them to Grace — denying this play its excuse to bring these two characters together. In one shocking scene, Glorie forces Grace to take pain medication, which is against all hospice tenets.
    Miller moves the contained action around the set well and keeps the pace of the show moving. As Grace, Sandra Cox puts in a fine performance, carrying the narrative and growing in her sensibilities as she learns more about Glorie and Glorie’s motivations for visiting. As Glorie, Jo Black Sullivan needs to modulate her performance so that her speech and walking rhythms are not constant. Both actresses have very strong comedic timing and make the most of the considerable humor that leavens the subject matter.
    Had director Estelle Miller chosen a more worthy play for her efforts, and had the two actors in this two-person show been given worthier material with which to work, the results would have been better. But overcoming a poor script is difficult.
    Bowie Theatre Company has real depth of talent in its midst. With better scripts, they can shine. The script of Grace and Glorie does not provide them that opportunity.

    Producer and costumer: John Nunemaker. Stage manager: Scott Beadle. Lighting designer Garrett Hyde. Set designer: Terry Averill. Sound designer: Walter Kleinfelder.
    Playing thru October 22 at 9pm FSa at Bowie Playhouse, White Marsh Park, Rt. 3, Bowie. $17 w/age discounts: 301-805-0219; rsvp: www.BCTheatre.com.