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Earthy Comedy

Grace and Glorie
Journeying to Friendship: Linda Hoy (right) and Lise Bruneau.

Two women discover common ground in San Jose Stage Company's 'Grace and Glorie'

By Heather Zimmerman

Much like its earthy, elderly heroine, Grace and Glorie, Tom Ziegler's poignant comedy about two very different women who find some common ground, is intriguing but not surprising. San Jose Stage Company concludes its season with an excellent production of this simple but introspective work.

Grace (Linda Hoy) is 90-year-old woman with terminal cancer who lives in rural Virginia. Comfortably religious, Grace is at peace with her place in the world and, more or less, with her imminent exit from it; one who is not so grounded--no big surprise--is her volunteer hospice worker, Gloria (Lise Bruneau), a successful businesswoman-turned-socialite with a lot of emotional baggage.

It's also not hard to guess that a grudging friendship springs up between the two, and that although Gloria has a lot more to learn from Grace, the elder picks up some wisdom from her caretaker as well.

Their friendship grows into a kind of journey of self-discovery, which at times is imbued with some cliché metaphors--all of the action takes place at Grace's apple farm, the significance of which becomes crystal-clear when the two begin to discuss women's roles in society and make references aplenty to Eve.

The play raises such familiar questions about religion and the human existence--"Is there a God, and if there is, why is He so unfair?"--that these issues seem, more than anything, to function simply as affirmations that all of us worry about the same things. The kind of answer Grace and Glorie proposes to these worldly worries is the solace that all people are interconnected.

The tried-and-true theme gains some extra credibility via the talents of Hoy and Bruneau. The two work beautifully together, and their performances are so engrossing that even at the play's most predictable moments, it hardly matters if we've heard most of this material before. Although the plot is inevitably easy to anticipate, the often-witty dialogue is lots of fun, accentuated by impeccable comic timing between Hoy and Bruneau.

Highlighting the heart and the sense of realism conjured by this production, David C. Dunning's cozy cabin set has all the right little details, with lived-in-looking touches that are as real as the actors' performances.

Overall, San Jose Stage Company's production of Grace and Glorie may actually upstage the play itself a little bit, but in this case, the result is an evening of excellent theater.

Grace and Glorie plays Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through June 22 at The Stage, 490 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $15-$25. (408/283-7142)

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