Grand Concourse OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Sara Krulwich
  • NY TIMES

  • DAILY NEWS

  • TM

  • EW

  • NY POST

Opening Night:
November 12, 2014
Closing:
November 30, 2014

Theater: Playwrights Horizons / 416 West 42nd Street, New York, NY, 10036

Synopsis: 

Called to a life of religious service, Shelley is the devoted manager of a Bronx soup kitchen, but lately her heart’s not quite in it. Enter Emma: an idealistic but confused young volunteer, whose recklessness pushes Shelley to the breaking point. With keen humor and startling compassion, Heidi Schreck’s play navigates the mystery of faith, the limits of forgiveness, and the pursuit of something resembling joy.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Grand Concourse

    A Soup Kitchen Where Even the Staff Is Needy

    Charles Isherwood

    November 12, 2014: Matters of faith and friendship, and secrets and lies, are blended into the stew in Grand Concourse, a modest but likable new play by Heidi Schreck set in a church soup kitchen in the Bronx. Ms. Schreck’s drama, which opened on Wednesday night at Playwrights Horizons, unfolds mostly during the busy work days in the kitchen, where piles of chopped vegetables are poured into big vats under the brisk supervision of a nun named Shelley, played by the ever-excellent Quincy Tyler Bernstine. Shelley takes her work seriously, so seriously that she arrives at 6 a.m. to clean up after the janitors, as her co-worker Oscar (Bobby Moreno) tells a new volunteer, Emma (Ismenia Mendes). Shelley takes her faith seriously, too, but lately has been finding it harder to find time for steady prayer. When Emma surprises her one morning in confessional communion with the microwave, Shelley sheepishly explains that the timer helps keep her devotions reliable. The arrival of Emma, a college dropout looking for a sense of purpose, at first seems a welcome addition to the small crew. Although other staff members are alluded to, we only see Oscar, who’s mainly on hand to keep the more obstreperous patrons of the soup kitchen from becoming unruly. Emma quickly becomes a useful pair of hands, although it becomes clear that psychological problems are not the exclusive province of the patrons. In the middle of a conversation with Shelley, Emma blurts out, “I have cancer.” This news naturally engenders sympathy, as does her ambitious plan to help some of the needy regulars find work. The first to benefit from Emma’s efforts is the genial Frog (Lee Wilkof), who wanders freely into the kitchen. Emma finds him a place to sleep and later arranges a series of job interviews.

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  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF Grand Concourse

    Tests of faith at Bronx soup kitchen propel Heidi Schreck's story featuring Quincy Tyler Bernstine and Bobby Moreno

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    November 12, 2014: It’s clear why Mazzella’s Market, a produce grocer in Hell’s Kitchen, gets a special thank-you in the Playbill for Grand Concourse. This worthwhile, albeit not completely convincing, drama about the limits of faith, connections and compassion unfolds in a Bronx church soup kitchen. Over the show’s 100 minutes, carrots, potatoes and zucchinis are constantly chopped and tossed into simmering kettles to feed the hard-luck and hungry. The slicing and dicing is always realistic, but the script by author and actress Heidi Schreck doesn’t always land with the same sharped-edged authenticity. Sure, the four characters are colorful and quirky — and brought to life vividly in director Kip Fagan’s staging. Still, some of the actions, plot twists and dialogue stretch credulity.

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF Grand Concourse

    Heidi Schreck writes a modern version of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," set in a Bronx soup kitchen

    Zachary Stewart

    November 12, 2014: The stage of the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Playwrights Horizons has been transformed into a soup kitchen in the basement of a Catholic church in the Bronx. This is the setting for Heidi Schreck's Grand Concourse, a brutal response to the notion of unconditional forgiveness and never-ending charity. With its pointed perspective and merciless plot, Grand Concourse is likely to rouse flashes of anger and sadness. A master provocateur of a playwright, it's nearly impossible to walk away unscathed by Schreck's harrowing tale. Sister Shelley (Quincy Tyler Bernstine) is a nun who has been running the soup kitchen for a long time. She chops zucchini like Martin Yan and serves an endless stream of needy mouths with the help of Oscar (Bobby Moreno), the church's Dominican handyman. Many of their visitors are regulars, like Frog (Lee Wilkof), a slightly unbalanced homeless man with a strange sense of humor. Shelley operates the kitchen with a rotating cast of volunteers. The newest one is Emma (Ismenia Mendes), a 19-year-old girl with an impulsive nature. In fact, her newfound volunteerism seems to be one of her whims.

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  • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW OF Grand Concourse

    Grand Concourse Review

    Jason Clark

    November 12, 2014: There's an awful lot of food preparation on NYC stages these days. Recent works including Generations, My Mañana Comes, and even the upcoming Hugh Jackman-starrer The River feature live slicing-and-dicing (watch out for those fingers!). In Grand Concourse—premiering at Playwrights Horizons Off Broadway and running through Nov. 30—you're even treated to the real-time frying of an egg, breakfast-y smell and all. However, despite all the food passing before your eyes, you may feel a little undernourished by play's end. Heidi Schreck's new play, set in the Bronx in a soup kitchen run by dress-down nun Shelley (Quincy Tyler Bernstine), certainly does not lack for empathy, using Rachel Hauck's ultra-realistic kitchen backdrop as a kind of confessional for its disparate characters. Besides Shelley, whose prayers are offset against a microwave timer, there's Oscar (Bobby Moreno), a streetwise, golden-hearted security guard, Frog (Lee Wilkof), a manically troubled but well-meaning homeless volunteer, and a new addition, Emma (Ismenia Mendes), a fragile, possibly depressive 19 year-old who threatens to turn Shelley's life of order, religious and otherwise, into chaos.

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  • NEW YORK POST REVIEW OF Grand Concourse

    Grand Concourse’ explores faith and forgiveness in a soup kitchen

    Elisabeth Vincentelli

    November 12, 2014: Set in a Bronx soup kitchen, Grand Concourse is something of a morality tale. But while Heidi Schreck’s new play is about big issues like faith and forgiveness, it has such a light, empathetic touch that it never feels like a lecture. You may need tissues by the end, though. This Playwrights Horizons production benefits greatly from having Quincy Tyler Bernstine (Mr. Burns, Far From Heaven) in the key role of Shelley, the nun in civilian clothing who runs the soup kitchen. Few actors can pull off non-tear-jerking pathos like Bernstine, with her downturned mouth and idiosyncratic line readings. She’s especially wonderful here as the pragmatic Shelley, who endlessly chops veggies for soup — in Rachel Hauck’s supernaturalistic set, you actually fear for the actors when they handle the knives — and cares for her nuttiest, neediest clients with bemused patience.

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