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Review: Grief gets its due in the therapeutic 'Grace Notes & Anvils'

Critic's Choice

May 31, 2012|By David C. Nichols
  • Ron Marasco, left, Roxanne Hart and Brian Shuff in "Grace Notes & Anvils."
Ron Marasco, left, Roxanne Hart and Brian Shuff in "Grace Notes &… (April Rocha )

The title of “Grace Notes & Anvils” at the Odyssey Theatre refers to two divergent aspects that those in mourning will inevitably encounter. “Grace notes” are those individuals whose acts of kindness come with unexpected synchronicity. “Anvils” goes the other way, when the almost-forgotten personal loss reenters consciousness with a "thud."

So say Ron Marasco and Brian Shuff, authors of “About Grief: Insights, Setbacks, Grace Notes, Taboos.” Their exploration of the tricky subject of grief is a specialty hybrid of staged reading, topical symposium and group therapy session. Aptly, it plays on its own subjectively personal terms. 

Hence, Marasco, Shuff and the ever-vital Roxanne Hart, the first in a series of guest actresses, enter the black box space, sit with scripts at a dining table and invite us to call out our own black-lined calendar dates before hitting the text. That proves to be a shrewdly synoptic accrual of anecdotes and reenactments, some riotous, others rending, and many well-chosen quotations. 

That it works, and it does, is due to the benignly acerbic Marasco and the collegially sincere Shuff, who adroitly keep things rolling. Then, there’s Hart, as sensitive and emotionally direct an actress as we’ve got, fixing the viewer in her laser-beam gaze while delivering a key point. 

It’s hardly high-end dramaturgy, but it totally achieves its aim -- to universalize and raise discourse on a topic that most people avoid. As someone forever transformed by his partner's 1994 demise and still processing his mother's passing in December, this reviewer can attest that bereaved attendees will find “Grace Notes & Anvils” empathetic, therapeutic and invaluable.

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“Grace Notes & Anvils,” Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m.; also, 8 p.m. June 27, July 11. Ends July 15. $25-$30. (310) 477-2055 or www.odysseytheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

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