The Lucille Lortel Theatre, off-Broadway on Christopher Street in the West Village, is not where you will generally see the likes of Lynn Redgrave where she plays the lead in Grace.

Grace is the atheist wife of a live-and-let-live nominally Jewish husband and the mother of Tony who goes diametrically opposite his atheist mother and intends to become an Episcopalian priest.  The play, though unnecessarily complex and awkwardly staged, does highlight the major arguments about religion and parent-child relationships.  We don’t really get why Tony, energetically played by Oscar Isaac, goes in this direction, or if it is in reaction to his mother’s overbearing personality, but he pleads adamantly with Grace to accept his life’s choice.  A smart young man, he admits there is no way to prove the existence of god and that science has no answers, but he says that it is a feeling which can not be denied.  Fine, we get it.  God is a feeling.  If he or she exists in your consciousness then he or she is real for you.   

In that sense Tony, his father, well-played by Philip Goodwin, is in the zone.  His connection with Judaism is tenuous as it is with most American Jews, but it is OK with him if Tom becomes a priest as long as it makes him happy.

Complicating this is the presence of Ruth, Tony’s girlfriend, played by the fetching K.K. Moggie who announces that she is pregnant.  So of course Tony can’t become a Catholic priest, which I am guessing he would have done if not for this complication.  He wants Ruth to become his wife.  Thank goodness for choices in the religion you adopt.  But Ruth wants affirmation that Tony will love him more than god and Tony wants to know if she will love him even though he wants to become a priest which goes against her sensibilities.

The play’s strength is that it looks at religion through a critical lens and dissects it for us to see.  The believer vs. atheist conflict can never be resolved short of a second coming, but the hypocrisies inherent in religion can be exposed.  While stopping short of condemning Islam, the play does denounce terrorism in no uncertain terms.  Religious fanatics have no right to take innocent lives.  I think all of us who are not radical muslims believe that.

The device used by Grace to search her soul is a silly, pseudo-scientific machine which tunes her brain to the frequency of a believer.  Neither the machine nor their discourse helps her to understand her boy, but the point becomes moot when tragedy takes him and all grieve at the loss no matter their point of view. 

Lynn Redgrave moves seamlessly from funny to ironic to tragic.  It is a master class in acting.  Few can hold a candle to her.