Review: AN ACT OF GRACE at Ottawa Little Theatre

With a gripping story, gorgeous set design, and stellar performances, An Act of Grace is sure to be a favourite during the Edinburgh Fringe later this year.

By: Jun. 14, 2024
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John Muggleton’s An Act of Grace opens with a bang. We meet two desperate men in the midst of making, quite literally, a life-altering decision. Grace (Venetia Lawless), a wealthy widow, has invited Tony (Christian Giansante), a lawyer, and Chuck (Kurt Shantz), an investment advisor, to her stately home, ostensibly to get her affairs in order. The two men are practically salivating at the thought of landing Grace as a prestigious client. The situation quickly derails, however, as dark secrets emerge, and the stakes become higher than anyone could have anticipated. Although Merriam-Webster defines an act of grace as “an act extending clemency to offenders before the law”, with its many twists and turns, it only becomes clear who the true offenders are at the very end of the play.

Review: AN ACT OF GRACE at Ottawa Little Theatre
Venetia Lawless, Christian Giansante, and Kurt
Shantz in An Act of Grace at Ottawa Little Theatre. 
Photo by Maria Vartanova.

Award-winning Ottawa playwright, John Muggleton, has created a riveting suspense story with An Act of Grace, brought to life on the Ottawa Little Theatre’s stage with superb direction by Lindsay Laviolette. The show would be even more compelling if it were about 20 or so minutes shorter. Although it is generally quick paced, it fizzles in the middle of both the first and second acts with Tony and Chuck’s overly drawn out back and forth dialogue that, after the first couple of minutes, fails to advance the plot any further. An Act of Grace is headed to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe later this year as a one-act play and I think that format will be a better fit for this show. The first act is short enough that the audience was a bit confused when the house lights went on, so tightening up the dialogue and running through with no intermission would have brought An Act of Grace from being a four-star play to five-stars, in my opinion.

Review: AN ACT OF GRACE at Ottawa Little Theatre
Kurt Shantz and Heather Archibald in
An Act of Grace at Ottawa Little Theatre.
Photo by Maria Vartanova. 

The set design, by Laviolette and Lawless, is one of the best I’ve seen from Ottawa Little Theatre. Luxurious high impact pieces, like a crushed velvet sofa, heavily laden bookcases, and suspended art in gilded frames recreate the feel of an opulent manor house. This contrasts nicely with the shabby bistro in need of some TLC just purchased by Chuck’s wife, Julie (Heather Archibald). The nondescript bistro tables and bar are set up on the far sides of the stage, with Grace’s centre stage living room cleverly obscured by a construction drop cloth whenever the play’s action requires the bistro setting.

Performances from all four cast members were powerful, despite minor flubs throughout. The story alternates between past and present, interspersed with Chuck’s narration that breaks the fourth wall. This works really well, largely thanks to the excellent use of lighting, designed by John Solman, in particular with the use of spotlights and transitions through fade-ins and -outs.

See it at home in Ottawa while you can – with a gripping story, gorgeous set design, and stellar performances, An Act of Grace is sure to be a favourite during its stint at the upcoming Edinburgh Fringe. On stage at Ottawa Little Theatre through June 29th, click here for more information and click the link below to buy tickets.

Overall Rating (out of five):  ★★★★


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