Hello, I'm dead

Jeff Resta's new play seeks answers for living from the Great Beyond.

MICHAEL, THE FIRST CHARACTER we meet in Jeff Resta's new play Grace and Patience, is a ghost—the first of a trio in this play who have messages for the living. As portrayed by John Kauffman, he's really quite charming, flashing a sweet smile and speaking with poetic insight about the nature of the changing seasons.

For Resta, "ghosts" aren't simply the spirits of the dead. They're memory, and hopes, and even behavior-governing DNA messages inherited from our ancestors. As such, they're some of the least frightening things in a world where you can lose a friend to a random holdup, or your lover can suddenly admit to an affair, or your child can be taken away from you by the government.

Grace and Patience

Annex Theater

ends March 20

All of these threaten the world of Eric (Patrick Rogers) and Yoz (Michael Sullivan), a gay couple who are the two fathers to Patience (Rhiannon Bronstein and Zoe Nurmia, alternating in the role), Eric's adopted daughter. It's an unconventional family in an unlikely place—west Texas—but happy enough until their idyllic life is threatened with collapse.

Resta's "sequel" (of sorts) to 1996's brilliant The Diva Classification System focuses on some interesting social issues, including the repercussions of anti-gay legislation, and—on the philosophical level—the lessons we learn from people only after they're gone. As with Diva, there's a pleasing blend of comedy and drama; but there are some notable missteps with this less polished play, including the occasional bout of new-agey spiritual sentiment and a number of unfulfilled story elements. Resta also has a weaker cast and director this time around, with only Gregory Musick turning in an unshakable performance as the humorously pessimistic friend of the family. S.J. Chiro's directing, while adequate, is flat and only occasionally inspired.

Despite these weaknesses, Resta's writing is still far above that of most of his contemporaries, both in ambition and execution, and this remains a serious (and seriously funny) play that never lets its social issues overcome the human-size stories it wants to tell.

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