Review: ‘Grand Concourse’ at Prologue Theatre

Prologue Theatre presents Grand Concourse, by Heidi Schreck. This show kicks off the inaugural season for Prologue, a new Arlington based non-profit professional Theatre company. Artistic Director Jason Tamborini says of his company:

“We want the plays that Prologue produces to be a catalyst for deeper dialogue and conversation on topical issues…we encourage you to reflect on the things that move you, the things that make you question, the things that make you laugh or cry as you watch one of our productions. Then, share it with someone else. Ask their opinion. Then stop and really listen to them.”

Poignant, complex, and affecting, Grand Concourse is the perfect choice to represent and introduce Prologue’s ambitious mission statement.

Zach Brewster-Geisz (Frog), Tim German (Oscar) and Carolyn Kashner (Shelley) in Grand Concourse at Prologue Theeatre. Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.
Zach Brewster-Geisz (Frog), Tim German (Oscar) and Carolyn Kashner (Shelley) in Grand Concourse at Prologue Theatre. Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.

Set in a Bronx soup kitchen, designer JD Madsen creates a set that is so realistic, you could be fooled into thinking it was the real thing. Sound designer Niusha Nawab puts us in the bustling city with car horns, alarms, sirens, and general busy chatter. The technical effects are impressive and efficient and give the actors a solid foundation to work with.

Sister Shelley (Carolyn Kashner) runs her soup kitchen with a steadying, commanding force. Though committed and devoted to her purpose, she finds that she is becoming somewhat disillusioned from the daily grind of her stressful job. Enter Emma (Annie Ottati), an aimless college dropout in search of stability and connection, and hoping to find it through volunteer work. Emma brings a lot of new promise and energy; a helping hand when Shelley needed it most. However, she is also conflicted and troubled, with a mysterious air about her. The two begin a journey together full of action and consequence, trust and disappointment. Their choices, though seemingly black and white, are frustratingly nuanced. Who’s right, and who’s wrong? Who holds accountability? It’s these questions that will inspire engaging conversation long after leaving the theater.

This play is a heavy one, and proves to be a tall order for its ensemble, who all rise to the occasion spectacularly. Kashner and Ottati carry the play with chemistry and verve, with Tim German and Zach Brewster-Geisz shining in supporting roles. German is playful and sweet as Oscar, a naive employee, and Brewster-Geisz steals every scene he’s in as Frog, a regular visitor whose charismatic ramblings are as insightful as they are puzzling.

Zach Brewster-Geisz (Frog) and Annie Ottati (Emma) in Grand Concourse at Prologue Theatre. Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.
Zach Brewster-Geisz (Frog) and Annie Ottati (Emma) in Grand Concourse at Prologue Theatre. Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.

To further supplement their intense productions, Prologue Theatre also offers weekly community conversations following their Sunday matinees, where participants can safely share their views and opinions on topical issues. These panels are free and open to the public, whether you have purchased a ticket or not. This company has a striving purpose to connect and support their community, and they fully deliver on their word – and then some. There’s overwhelming talent and potential here, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

I very much enjoyed Grand Concourse, and I look forward to Prologue Theatre’s future projects and endeavors. If you enjoy thoughtful, profound conversations, this production is the perfect catalyst. My date and I spent the rest of the evening in lively debate, which was a nice jolt from our regular Netflix schedule. I highly recommend checking out this new theatre company – they have a lot to offer!

Running Time: Approximately two hours without an intermission.

Grand Concourse plays at Prologue Theatre through February 17, 2019, at Key Bridge Marriott/Georgetown Ballroom 1401 Lee Hwy Arlington, VA. Purchase your tickets online.

Note: The Key Bridge Marriott is offering a 15% discount (excluding alcohol) to all Prologue audience members. Simply show your ticket confirmation or program and enjoy the convenience of grabbing a bite to eat before or after the performance. Prologue audience members will also receive $10 flat rate parking in the on-site garage. Grand Concourse takes place at a Bronx area soup kitchen. In support of members of the local community who struggle with food insecurity, Prologue will be collecting non-perishable food items at each performance. The donations will benefit the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). They are most in need of the following low sugar & low sodium items: canned tuna, canned soup, canned vegetables, peanut butter (in plastic jars) and cereal.