“I am a woman who is on the brink of a change, whether she knows it or not,” said Melanie Beck as she searched for the exact words to describe her character, Sara, in the play “Grace.”
A housewife trying to connect in a lonely world, Sara is one of the four complex characters in the tragicomedy “Grace,” written by Emmy-nominated playwright Craig Wright, opening this weekend as the first production of the Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s 20th anniversary season. “Grace” begins Friday, Jan. 17, with performances on select Tuesdays through Sundays until Sunday, Feb. 9.
“The play takes place in two generic apartments on the Florida shore,” said Beck, who returns to the Lake Dillon Theatre Company after her previous roles in last season’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner” and the 2012 hit “Sylvia,” where she played the title role, a dog. “For Sara, Florida is a brand-new place and a different culture from what she knows. It illuminates her beliefs as she sorts out different cultures than she’s known, and it propels her into her evolution or, rather, the demise of her old skin.”
“Grace” explores the complicated lives of Evangelical husband and wife Steve and Sara after they leave a dreary life in Minnesota for sunny Florida and the hope of fast money from turning abandoned hotels into a chain of gospel-themed inns. An exploration of faith in a fallen world, “Grace” unveils how the modern malaise of spirituality can unexpectedly change and challenge us from within.
Lake Dillon Theatre Company executive director Joshua Blanchard and returning company member Bob Moore join Beck for “Grace” in the roles of Steve and Karl, a German-American bug exterminator, respectively. David Farrington completes the cast in the role of Sam, a NASA scientist living next door to Sara and Steve recovering from a near-death accident.
Defining a tragicomedy
“Grace” is billed as a tragicomedy, meaning that amidst the dramatic aspects of the play, humor does exist,” said Chris Alleman, Lake Dillon Theatre Company producing artistic director, who also directs the production. “The dialogue is often witty and very fast paced. There is quite a bit of irony in both situation and dialogue that underlies the play.”
“Grace” fits into the Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s mission of presenting a wide variety of programming for the Summit County community.
“Craig Wright is one of today’s most sought-after contemporary playwrights,” Alleman said. “(Wright’s) plays deal with the fabric of a diminishing human condition, and his complex characters often delve into parts of their pasts that they have tried to forget.”
“(Grace) looks at how today’s important social issues, such as gun rights, marriage and religion, influence our beliefs and our actions,” said Tim Paré, Lake Dillon Theatre Company educational director. “Regardless of any religious or world view the characters represent at the start “Grace,” all of the characters in the play represent people — flawed people, with hopes and dreams.
“It is our hope that this production challenges, supports and inspires conversation, thought and reflection.”
Alleman said the play contains mature themes and language and may not be appropriate for all audiences.
“It may deal with touchy subjects, but the play also shows some hope,” Beck said. “(Sara) shows us how faith, beauty and love in the world can break boundaries. It’s an amazing understanding of humanity.”