Play Review: Soup With an Extra Dose of Tears and Laughter by Argenis Ovalles ('17)

On November 21st, the ACES Dynasty witnessed the psychology of the human mind seen in the form of the new Heidi Schreck play, Grand Concourse. Between going to the theater or attending a prior engagement that involved an outdoor party in the cold depths of Queens, I chose my love for the art of acting. Like the rest of my classmates, I did not know the details of the play, but I was anxious to see it nonetheless. This explains why I definitely was not prepared for what I saw.

Before going forward on our thespian journey, we headed over to Patron’s, a Mexican grill and bar. It was kind of a nice place, except for the frozen blow of the wind that hit us whenever someone would open the door. Still, it was nice because having people from different countries in the ACES program gave me the chance to see some other cultural reactions to Mexican cuisine. It was adorable, in a non-condescending sort of way. Especially when the food got mixed up and some could not remember who ordered what. 

A few hours later, our stomachs were happy and our minds were prepared for the epic voyage to the theater, which was literally two blocks from the restaurant. When we got there, we couldn't help but notice that we had tickets for the very first rows. Some of us were a little bit farther away from the group, a fact Professor Larson took as an "offense." He was joking, of course. Most people were casually dressed, and some looked like they were going to the North Pole. A woman even took a picture of my sweater because it had my fraternity name, Rocky. She intended to use the picture as a gift for her daughter Muriel, whose nickname is also Rocky. Small world.

Something that I really loved was what happened before the play was about to start. The lights slowly started to dim; it was preparing the audience for the play. It was a nice touch of the theater. Thanks, theater! A few minutes past 7:30, the play started. The opening scene began with Shelley, portrayed by Quincy Tyler Bernstine, praying to a microwave. As ridiculous as it may sound, the microwave was used as a metaphor for the light of God, in my opinion, to give her the strength she needed to pray with her whole heart. An important point to make is that the character is a nun who always seems to forgive everyone no matter what, like Frog (Lee Wilkof), an indigent who benefits from Shelley’s soup kitchen, which is also the setting of the whole play. However, Shelley’s forgiving nature changes, maybe for the best, by the entrance of Emma (Ismenia Mendes) into her life. Throughout the course of the play Emma develops an attraction towards Oscar (Bobby Moreno), the latter being a crucial cause to the outcome of the story.

Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Bobby Moreno, Ismenla Mendes, Lee Wilkof. Photo Joan Marcus. 

Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Bobby Moreno, Ismenla Mendes, Lee Wilkof. Photo Joan Marcus. 

These characters develop a “dysfunctional yet sometimes helpful family” setting that anyone can relate to. Shelley and Emma’s dynamic echoes that of a mother and daughter relationship. Similarly, Oscar and Frog have a sort of father and son relationship, with the occasional advice and care. With the usual elements of secrets, comedy, tragedy, sex, and family, Grand Concourse opens your eyes to what the human mind is like. It opens your eyes for you to see how much is enough. As a child, my grandmother always told me that forgiving people who hurt you will make you feel better. After the end of this play, I started to question that philosophy.