Rudd Summons Jesus for Gospel Hotel Chain: Jeremy Gerard

A guy tells his female partner their business deal is saved. An unknown foreign financier has promised to wire them millions of dollars by the next morning.

No, this isn’t the latest on “Rebecca,” the Broadway musical that can’t open because investors turned out to be dead, imaginary or both.

This is the premise of “Grace,” Craig Wright’s torpid 10- year-old drama that, incomprehensibly, has made its way to Broadway with a stellar cast that includes Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, Ed Asner and Kate Arrington.

Life really is more gripping than fiction.

Rudd and Arrington play Steve and Sara, an evangelical couple who have arrived in Florida from St. Paul, Minnesota, intent on building a chain of gospel-themed hotels for Christian wayfarers.

With a promise of $9 million from a certain Mr. Himmelman in Zurich, they commence work on their first location.

Sara also begins cultivating Sam (Shannon), the next-door neighbor whose recent car tragedy has left him minus both his fiancee and half of his face.

“You’re mad at God for not existing!” Steve says to Sam. “You’re allowed to say it.”

Cynical View

Asner is Karl, the exterminator in their generic apartment complex, a gruff, wise elder who has seen tragedy (he’s a German whose family hid Jews during the war) and imparts a cynical view of the universe.

Photographer: Joan Marcus/O&M Co. via Bloomberg

Paul Rudd and Ed Asner in "Grace" at the Cort Theatre. The Broadway drama is directed by Dexter Bullard. Close

Paul Rudd and Ed Asner in "Grace" at the Cort Theatre. The Broadway drama is directed by Dexter Bullard.

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Photographer: Joan Marcus/O&M Co. via Bloomberg

Paul Rudd and Ed Asner in "Grace" at the Cort Theatre. The Broadway drama is directed by Dexter Bullard.

These actors are so committed that you may find yourself angry that they have no play to commit to. Dexter Bullard’s lively staging is sometimes confusing, on a challenging yet elegant set by the ubiquitous Beowulf Boritt. The long single act begins with gunshots, adding considerably to the lack of suspense.

Rudd captures Steve’s free-market spirituality with a puppyish zeal that can on a dime turn scary. Arrington is sympathetic as a trapped woman who slowly realizes she’s married to a fool.

Shannon is riveting in a role that nevertheless strains credibility (if, for one thing, he’s a computer genius, why can’t he figure out how to upload precious pictures without losing them?).

From Where?

Asner nearly steals the show despite an accent from someplace no GPS could locate, at least on this planet. I wish Karl wasn’t saddled with a monologue that reeks of Holocaust porn involving rape and redemption.

And if you believe Himmelman is going to come through with that $9 million, let me introduce you to a producer I know. He’s got an investment opportunity you’re sure to find irresistible.

At the Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St. Information: +1-212- 239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com. Rating: **


What the Stars Mean:

*****  Fantastic
****   Excellent
***    Good
**     So-So
*      Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include movies and New York Weekend.

To contact the writer of this column: Jeremy Gerard in New York at jgerard2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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