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A constituent angrily tells a politician, "You've become a bottle of smoke," in John Patrick Shanley's new drama, "Storefront Church," which is about the nature of faith with a capital F.
Written and directed by Shanley, a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner, the intense drama about several related crises of faith opened in a quirky yet searing production Monday night off-Broadway at Atlantic Theater Company's newly renovated Linda Gross Theater.
Featuring an accomplished cast, the edgy "Storefront Church" completes what Shanley calls his "Church and State" trilogy, following his 2004 "Doubt" (which won a drama Pulitzer) and his 2006 "Defiance." Thrown together by a mortgage crisis, a basically decent, ethically-conflicted , fictional Bronx borough president and a high-minded preacher who's a Katrina refugee from New Orleans square off in an intense confrontation about their individual commitments to their social and spiritual beliefs.
Giancarlo Esposito is scrappy and cynical as up-and-coming politician Donaldo Calderon, whose somewhat naive constituent Jessie Cortez (a luminous Tonya Pinkins) comes to him for help with an imminent foreclosure after ill-advisedly taking out a second mortgage so a preacher could renovate her first floor storefront into a church.
Jessie believes in the preacher, Chester Kimmich (strongly portrayed with elegant gravitas by Ron Cephas Jones), even though he hasn't paid her back any money in ten months.