Playwright: Shauna Johannesen
Director: Ron Reed
Cast: Shauna Johannesen, Kerri Norris, Carl Kennedy, Rebecca deBoer, Cara Cunningham, Robert Garry Haacke, and Julie Lynn Mortensen
A Pacific Theatre production
Jan. 29–Feb. 14, 2016
When a family is reunited to mourn the loss of their husband and father, they are forced to confront the conflicts that have kept them apart. The tensions of dealing with grief and scandal in a close-knit family and Christian community erupt in the most common of places: the family kitchen.
Pacific Theatre hosts the premier of local talent Shauna Johannesen’s new play, Common Grace. Johannessen, a member of the Playwright’s Guild of Canada and two time Leo winner, has written and stars in an engaging portrait of family life.
The title of the play alludes to the doctrine of common grace (particularly associated with the Christian Reformed Church), which asserts that God shows his love for all creation by extending acts of grace to all his creatures, not just those who hold Christian beliefs. Johannesen’s play explores how we can express and receive that grace in the brokenness of our own self-interest and relationships.
Ron Reed directs the cast in an intimate, natural and nuanced performance of relatable family dynamics. Johannesen is excellent as Colleen, the prodigal daughter who must return home to Chilliwack to face the consequences of her past. She is supported by a talented cast, who effectively embody the myriad ways that people deal with loss and conflict.
The costuming and set design by Amy McDougall and Carolyn Rapanos successfully capture the ordinariness of the setting. Audience members feel almost like voyeurs, looking in on a suburban family home. It is easy to identify with Johannesen’s characters and context. We have been in such places: we know this kind of grief.
The characters in Common Grace show us that in the midst of anguish, it is sometimes the small acts of grace (a good cup of coffee or a routine to busy the mind) that keep us going.
Amid the dark realism, punctuations of humour break the tension. The production nicely marries Johannesen’s clever writing and the cast’s outstanding timing.
Ultimately, Johannesen’s play reminds us that our relationships need grace to maintain their paradoxical quality: while love is what hurts us, it is also love that heals us.
—Robin Lawrence is a full-time student in the MATS program at Regent College. She is particularly interested in the intersection of theology, culture, and the arts.