In “Grand Concourse,” a nun in charge of a soup kitchen finds her spirit flagging while a new volunteer who revitalizes the operation turns out to have a side her co-workers did not expect.
Can good things result from flawed motives? What happens when someone is given a chance to help others, then possibly offsets that with other, questionable actions? Can someone regret doing good?
In Heidi Schreck’s 2014 play, the audience may leave with more questions than when they started. For Baylor graduate student Cooper Sivara, director of the Baylor production that opens a four-performance run on Thursday, that’s a good thing and one reason he loves theater.
“I like plays that are challenging and ask questions,” he explained. “For me, this play has a lot to do with asking yourself what faith means to you, what it means to be a good person.”
“Grand Concourse” follows Sister Shelley (Jessica Bean) as she runs a soup kitchen in a Bronx church basement with daily companions in the homeless man Frog (Graham Bryant) and security guard Oscar (Brody Volpe). She works long and hard at her job, even as she finds her motivation leaking away.
Shelly’s joined by a newcomer named Emma (Morgan Maxey) who shows up and wants to help. Shelley, always looking to meet others’ needs, works Emma in, but, over time, the young woman’s presence proves more disruptive than helpful.
Sivana, 25, came to Baylor’s theater program after earning a bachelor’s degree in acting from the University of California in Los Angeles, drawn in part because of the university’s Christian emphasis. He finds theater provides a dimension in which to wrestle with faith and ethical issues.
“It’s important to ask these questions. I think a central component of faith is to continue to ask questions,” he said, even as he adds it’s important to let an audience come to its own conclusions. “I wanted to be careful with this play, not forcing a viewpoint on the audience.”
Characters and acting drive “Grand Concourse,” but the play’s staging in Baylor’s smaller black-box theater space, Theatre 11, presented physical challenges of mimicking the close space of a basement kitchen with few set walls as well as choreographing action around a stove and sink, Sivara said.
“Grand Concourse” is the first of two Baylor Theatre summer productions this month, with “Who Am I This Time?” running June 22-25.