BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW
So it’s good news and bad news over at Atlantic Theater Company, which premiered “Storefront Church” on Monday at the freshly-renovated Linda Gross Theater.
The good news is that the $8 million-plus enlargement of the Linda Gross Theater results in a new lobby area and bathrooms, comfortable seating, a deeper stage and many technical improvements that most patrons probably won’t notice but will appreciate for years to come.
The bad news is that “Storefront Church” is a disappointing drama from John Patrick Shanley, whose terrific, Pulitzer-winning play “Doubt” began his “Church and State” trilogy that concludes so weakly with this work. (Between them was “Defiance,” an okay study in racism at a Marine base in the 1970s.)
Shanley’s contemporary story regards Donaldo (Giancarlo Esposito), a fictional Bronx borough president, whose ethics are challenged and risk serious compromise when he reluctantly assists a family friend, Jessie (Tonya Pinkins), an older lady about to lose her home in a mortgage default.
A pending $300 million mall project figures into the complicated plot involving a calculating financier (Jordan Lage), a storefront church minister who’s lost his ability to preach (Ron Cephas Jones), and a bank officer (Zach Grenier) physically and emotionally disfigured from a terrible incident in his past.
Further mixed into Shanley’s brew of spiritual, socio-economical and moral dilemmas are racial issues, some of which regard Donaldo’s uneasy Italian-Puerto Rican heritage and the unlikely marriage between Pentecostal Jessie, a Latina, and Ethan (Bob Dishy), a jolly secular Jew who gets matters off to a dramatic start when he suffers a heart seizure at the loan office.