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'Grand Concourse' review: Engrossing tale of trouble at Bronx soup kitchen

Lee Wilkof and Quincy Tyler Bernstine in a

Lee Wilkof and Quincy Tyler Bernstine in a scene from Playwright Horizon's "Grand Concourse." Credit: Joan Marcus

There is such interesting goodness in the denizens of "Grand Concourse," Heidi Schreck's engrossing exploration of the limitations of forgiveness in a soup kitchen in the Bronx. So when Emma) -- a febrile young beauty with blue streaks in her hair -- shows up to volunteer, we suspect she may be trouble.

Just how much trouble, however, is hard to guess until the very end of Kip Fagan's enjoyable staging of this brightly-wrought, slightly schematic drama by Schreck, an accomplished actress now playwright-in-residence at Playwrights Horizons.

Quincy Tyler Bernstine has a sharp, deadpan intelligence as Shelley, the modern-dress nun who runs the spotless kitchen (designed by Rachel Hauck) with private times to work on what she calls her "problems with prayers." Bobby Moreno is lovely as Oscar, the handyman, a gangly sweetheart from the Dominican Republic, now a City University student whose capacity for love is matched by his offbeat locutions and perspective.

Veteran character actor Lee Wilkof brings shrewd originality to the potential stereotype of the wise old homeless Jew. And Ismenia Mendes, in the trickiest role of the newcomer, changes the young woman's contradictory masks with scary conviction. In just 100 minutes, Schreck develops these multilayered characters while touching crises of faith and fidelity, the food chain and a vision based on gentleness. To her credit, little is solved.

INFO $60; 212-279-4200; playwrightshorizons.org

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