The Beverly Hills Outlook -- February 2004

Grace and Glorie
by Joseph N Feinstein

Grace and Glorie has been produced in several different venues:  As a play entitled APPLE DREAMS in 1990; later on as a television special on Hallmark Hall of Fame; then as a movie starring Gena Rowlands and Diane Lane.  It returns to the Eclectic Theatre in North Hollywood, starring Nan Tepper as ninety-year old Grace Stiles and D.J. Harner as her hospice welfare worker, Gloria Whitmore, who is determined to help Grace prepare a will and get her cottage in order.

The pain, anxiety and difficulties of dealing with death are skillfully portrayed here. Grace has been released from he hospital to return home to die.  Glorie volunteers to assist Grace in this transitional time.  The concept of hospice, though an ancient word, was just coming into vogue when Tom Ziegler, the playwright, sat down to compose this literary gem fourteen years ago; It requires the aide to talk about and help the patient confront her death by taking all the necessary steps to face the inevitable.  The irony here is which one is ready to face death and which one is having the hard time.

The opening scenes are most forceful due to some great acting by Ms. Tepper.  Her facial gestures, grimaces and lines are spoken with great conviction and strength. Gloria's constant bounce, nervousness and jittery behavior give us a quick take on her discomfort and lack of awareness in this milieu.  Grace helps us understand some of Glorie's difficulty by telling her, "You can't even say the word death!"

There are many lessons for all of us throughout this intense dialogue: Grace says to Glorie, "You have more time on your hands than sense."  And when Grace cries for the first time, it is only then that Glorie smiles."  And Grace looks at Glorie and tells her, "Death is another part of life, like being born!"

Something of value runs throughout the play, but it is the last scene that held my interest completely for we are watching Glorie make Grace up in preparation for a tape Grace is about to make to her great-niece.  The interaction between the two is loving, dedicated and trusting - qualities not apparent until then.  It brings us to a most satisfying conclusion.

Here, the play's the thing.  However, our stars bring to Ziegler's words believability, veracity and commitment.  Their efforts are supported by the very rustic cottage prepared by Jeff Rack, some very loud but believable sound effects by Tony Karraa and excellent lighting by Katrina Kalatzis. Judy Welden's fine direction keeps our attention focused on Grace's steadiness amidst Glorie's difficulties...experiencing a mouse, burning her hand or tapping the well for water.  There is a dedicated development of characterization throughout the two and a quarter hours.  Be prepared: There can be some distinct disturbances in this play for the viewer.  However, the balance sheet will offer far more assets than liabilities and you will walk away in thought.