A Real Human Soul

When Grace Comes In makes you proud to be alive

The water in McDonald's play represents the vast, unconscious pull of an unfulfilled soul, one that wants to grab its host vessel and pull it under, for better and for worse. This also supplies the fascinating conflict of the play: whether she flees from the current that threatens to pull her from her safe moorings or dives headfirst into it.

Not that the play is perfect. The presence of a late-night Washington, D.C., talk-show host is problematic (although Stephanie Berry's acting and vocal timbre is phenomenal), the continual referencing of country music seems curiously out of place—and why is there no use of Hank Williams Sr. music in this play even though he's mentioned some 50 times? More important, the play's ending feels strangely anticlimactic. Loose ends that are tied up seem unfulfilled, and there are many others not touched on.

But those are minor quibbles. This is a piece with a purpose: it instructs us to live fully and honestly. It reminds us of the fragility of life and the importance of treasuring each and every moment. That's a sentiment that many writers set out to dramatize, but few capture it in a play that feels as intensely human and profoundly beautiful as this one. It's that rare gem of a play that makes you proud to be alive and gives you hope for the state of contemporary theater.

When Grace Comes In at the La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla Village Drive and Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, (858) 550-1010. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. Through Sept. 1. $19-$49; $10 for people under 30 on certain nights (call for more information).

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