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The difference between belief and knowledge and the consequences of mistaking one for the other are at the heart of Craig Wright’s play Grace. An evangelical Christian couple, Sara and Steve, leave a dreary life in Minnesota for sunny Florida and the hope of fast money from turning abandoned hotels into a chain of gospel-themed inns. Their new neighbor, Sam, is struggling to emerge from the trauma of a car accident that killed his fiancée and left him badly maimed. And the building’s pest exterminator, Karl, is...
The difference between belief and knowledge and the consequences of mistaking one for the other are at the heart of Craig Wright’s play Grace. An evangelical Christian couple, Sara and Steve, leave a dreary life in Minnesota for sunny Florida and the hope of fast money from turning abandoned hotels into a chain of gospel-themed inns. Their new neighbor, Sam, is struggling to emerge from the trauma of a car accident that killed his fiancée and left him badly maimed. And the building’s pest exterminator, Karl, is still tormented by a dark childhood episode. As their stories converge, Wright’s characters find themselves face-to-face with the most eternally vexing questions—the nature of faith, the meaning of suffering, and the possibility of redemption. Acidly funny and relentlessly searching, Grace is a trenchant work from an immensely gifted playwright.
Steve, male, thirties
Sara, female, thirties
Sam, male, thirties
Karl, male, seventies
The play takes place in two identical generic apartments on the Florida shore. There is only one set for both apartments, however, and we are in both of them all of the time. The time is the present.
[A gunshot rings out and lights rise on two dead bodies—one woman and one man—lying on the floor of a condominium on the Florida shore. Standing with a gun to his head is STEVE. Time is moving backward. He takes the gun from his head. He takes a few steps, aims the pistol at the dead woman—SARA—and shoots. She stands, driven upright like a lightning bolt. She screams. He turns and aims at the dead man—SAM—who shoots upward into a standing position as well. STEVE holds the gun there, aimed at SAM.]
SAM: Don't. Please. Don't.
[STEVE cocks the gun.]
SARA: We can't.
STEVE: I want to go back. Remember the little monkeys? I want to go back, Sara!
SARA: Please, Steve, just tell me what you want—
STEVE: It feels like it does! It feels like it does, though, doesn't it?
SARA: It doesn't have to!
STEVE: Just tell me this is how it ends up!!
[STEVE lowers the gun.]
STEVE: It felt like the most perfection and beauty I'd ever felt in my life, and this is how it ends up? I reorganized my entire life around this "universal love" that I thought I saw, that I thought I felt. I changed everything. And so I did what any poor, stupid, helpless human being would do. "Universal love." I talked to the stars and they talked back and something shot through me, it did, down through the top of my head like an upside-down fountain and I was filled for the first time with a sense of love. I would give anything, anything, to forget they did, but I can't. I spoke to them like you would to a person, and they talked back. Because some people had told me something, I went outside and looked up at the stars. Because a lot of people had, what, told me something? The stars? One night I went out under the stars. God.
[The time is three months earlier. SAM's MacBook Pro is open on the coffee table. Amy Grant's pop-gospel classic "In a Little While" is playing loudly on a CD boom box. Otherwise, no one's on the set. We hear keys in the door, and STEVE enters in a suit and tie, pleased as punch, bearing a grocery bag and a briefcase.]
[SARA enters from the bedroom.]
[STEVE sets the grocery bag down.]
STEVE: Guess what?
SARA [not enjoying guessing and not ever imagining this is it]: You got the call.
STEVE: I got the call.
SARA [shocked and happy]: No WAY—Steve!
STEVE: I know!
SARA: You got the CALL!
STEVE: I KNOW! They're issuing the bonds in Zurich right now!
SARA: Praise God!
STEVE: I know, I was praying the whole way home in the car, Sara, I was speaking in tongues and people were looking at me, like, "What's up with him?"
SARA: This is so amazing!
STEVE: Sara, you don't even know!
[STEVE and SARA embrace.]
It's amazing, it's crazy, it's the LORD, can I turn the music off a second?
SARA: Sure, of course—
STEVE: Because I wanna tell you all about it.
SARA: I know, please, turn it off, I want to hear!
[Just as STEVE turns off the stereo, SAM enters from the kitchen. His face is half covered in bandages. SAM walks painfully with a drugstore cane and has one arm in a sling. SAM doesn't notice STEVE and SARA. They are in two different apartments.]
SAM [to himself]: Thank you, fucking Jesus.
SARA: We should pray first.
STEVE [thrown slightly off course but not showing it]: Totally.
[STEVE and SARA take each other's hands, bow their heads: a team. SAM, meanwhile, sits at the laptop and starts working frustratedly.]
STEVE: Dear Lord, we just come before You now to thank You for bringing us this amazing opportunity ...
SARA: Praise You, Lord ...
STEVE: For giving us the courage to come down here to Florida all the way from Minnesota ... for giving us the courage as a couple to follow You wherever You lead us in life, and for, just, blessing us with all Your bounty ...
SARA: Yes, Lord ...
STEVE: And we just want to ask You to please help us continue, Lord, even at times like this, when You're showering us with so many blessings, help us to keep being faithful followers of You ...
SARA: Even more faithful ...
STEVE: Yes, even more faithful, and help us keep our eyes on You, Lord, through all of it, and on Your Son, Jesus Christ, upon whom we depend ...
SARA: Completely ...
STEVE: Yes, upon whom we depend completely, and we just come before You now and ask You to just keep holding us, Lord. Keep carrying us forward, Lord, always forward, deeper and deeper into Your grace. Amen.
[STEVE opens his eyes—he's done. But SARA's eyes are still closed. STEVE waits, loving her. SARA smiles, feeling a genuine deep peace.]
[SARA opens her eyes.]
[STEVE and SARA kiss simply and quickly. Then, SARA continues like the best mom ever—]
OK, so what happened? Tell me!
STEVE: Well, I got a call, like, last thing, last minute, just like these things always happen, just as I'm walking out the door, I get this call from Gary Oliver, he said Mr. Himmelman loves the location, he's approved the purchase, it's all systems go, they're gonna wire us the money from Zurich tomorrow morning!
SARA: Steve, that's so amazing! I'm so happy for you!
STEVE: I know, but do you know what it means?
SARA: We can have a baby?
STEVE: Yes, we can have a baby, but what it means is, Sara, is the principles work!
[SARA steps away from STEVE, headed to get something.]
I mean, do you know what I can do now that I know this, REALLY, that the Lord really works this way? What I can achieve in the hotel industry?
SARA [as if this is enough]: Whatever the Lord wants you to achieve!
STEVE [as if that was not quite enough]: Yeah, whatever we want to!
[SARA grabs a Pottery Barn catalog and sits on the sofa.]
SARA: Come here.
SARA: I wanna show you something.
STEVE: Wait a second, just let me tell you one more thing.
SARA [a micro-stutter of intention]: I'm, uh, OK.
[SARA keeps the catalog in her lap.]
STEVE: I figured out the name.
SARA: For the hotel?
STEVE: For the whole CHAIN.
SARA: Tell me.
STEVE: "Crossroads Inns ..."?
SARA: I don't like that name.
STEVE: Why? It's the perfect name for a chain of gospel hotels! "Crossroads Inns!"
SARA: I don't know ...
SARA: "Crossroads Inns ..."
SARA: There's just something hard to say about it—
STEVE: What's hard to say? "Crossroads Inns! Crossroads Inns?" What's hard?
SARA: In the middle there, "Crossroads Inns," it's "zins," it's weird—
STEVE: No it isn't—
SARA: And what do you call the ONE?
STEVE: What do you mean?
SARA: What do you call the ONE hotel—
STEVE: Which ONE hotel?
SARA: The one you're about to buy; when you're done with the renovation and you open the doors, is it gonna be the "Crossroads INN"?
STEVE: I guess.
SARA: But the chain is called "Crossroads INNS ..."? It's weird.
STEVE [moving on]: What about "The Upper Rooms"?
SARA: That feels sacrilegious—
STEVE [only half as a joke]: "The New RESTament"?
SARA [smiling at the half-joke]: Steve—
SARA: Would you sit down and look at this with me now, please?
STEVE: OK, but just for a second, I'm so pumped!
[STEVE sits on the sofa arm beside SARA but doesn't pay attention.]
[SARA shows STEVE the catalog. KARL, having entered from the kitchen, has finished spraying in the living room and comes over to SAM—KARL speaks with a German accent and is ancient.]
KARL: S'okay if I go in the bedroom?
[SAM nods. KARL exits. STEVE's not sure what to look at.]
SARA [pointing]: There.
STEVE [masking an essential weariness]: Oh, baby stuff.
SARA: Yeah, for the baby's room.
STEVE: You're not pregnant right now, are ya?
SARA: No, it would be for when we have one, silly. It's all a whole big set.
STEVE: Looks great!
SARA: You see the pattern? On the bedding, the ruffle, the curtains ...?
STEVE: What are those things? [After a closer look] Little monkeys?
SARA: Yeah. I think they're so precious, don't you?
STEVE: Yeah, I think they're totally precious.
SARA: They're on sale right now.
SARA: This whole catalog is discontinued lines ...
STEVE: I think it's all great!
SARA: So even if we don't have a baby right now, we should just get the set—
STEVE: I agree.
SARA: Because I love those little monkeys! I just wanna have 'em, you know?
STEVE: I completely agree.
STEVE: Yeah, the minute the money comes through tomorrow morning, I'll throw some cash into our personal account, done.
[After a long beat.]
SARA: They're discontinued lines.
STEVE: So they can't wait until tomorrow ...?
SARA: I don't know. It says supplies are limited—
STEVE: You think they send out a catalog with only one piece of everything left? So it's, like, a race?
SARA: I don't know, I just want to get 'em! That's all!
STEVE: Look, Sara, I promise, the minute the money comes tomorrow, we'll transfer some cash into our account and you can order it. OK?
STEVE: Let's just do things in order. It's just one day. It's less than one day.
SARA: OK. But promise.
STEVE: I promise. We'll get the little monkeys tomorrow.
SARA: Thank you.
STEVE: Thank YOU.
[STEVE and SARA kiss. STEVE pulls away from the kiss and goes to the kitchen to start unpacking the grocery bag.]
Now, do you have plans for dinner, 'cause I got some big steaks.
SARA: Don't take anything out.
STEVE: Why not?
SARA [with a very light edge]: Because the exterminator hasn't come, everything's put away, and I don't wanna get insecticide all over the food.
STEVE: Oh. OK.
[KARL has come out of the bedroom with his sprayer and a work order in one hand.]
KARL: If you'll sign this here, I'll skedaddle.
[SAM signs the work order. STEVE steps out of the kitchen.]
STEVE: So let's just go out to dinner.
SARA: No, we can't.
STEVE: Why not?
SARA: Because I have to wait to let him in ...
[KARL opens the front door and addresses SAM.]
KARL [dismally]: Have a good one.
SARA: ... anyway, we can't afford to go out.
[KARL exits, closing the door behind him.]
STEVE: Why can't we afford to go out?
SARA: Because we don't have the money.
STEVE: I told you, we're getting the money tomorrow morning from Zurich.
SARA: I know, but we don't have the money in Florida tonight.
STEVE: So we'll charge it.
SARA: So we can charge dinner but we can't charge the little monkeys ...?
[There is a knock at the door. STEVE heads for the door.]
STEVE: Dinner is not the little monkeys, Sara, dinner's dinner and the little monkeys are a thousand dollars' worth of monkey-covered stuff!
[STEVE gets to the door.]
[Beat. STEVE feels bad for having said that.]
SARA: It's OK. I'm sorry, too. It's just—I've been here all day.
STEVE: I know. I'm sorry.
[Beat. STEVE opens the door. Standing there is KARL.]
STEVE: Come on in.
KARL: Sorry I'm late. S'been kind of a toughie.
STEVE: No problem.
[KARL enters, sets down his sprayer, and prepares to spray.]
KARL: You two wanna go outside while I do this?
STEVE: No, you just do your thing.
KARL: Okey dokey.
[KARL starts spraying. STEVE gives SARA a look. She affirms.]
STEVE: So what went wrong with your day?
STEVE: You said you've had a tough day, I think, what happened?
KARL: Oh, boy, you name it. First, those tourists got shot on the freeway ...
STEVE: Oh, yeah. [To SARA] Did you hear about that?
STEVE: A family was on their way to, uh, Orlando from the airport, right?
STEVE:—just landed, they were on their way to Disney World, of all places, and some kids just pulled up alongside, shot the dad and the children dead.
KARL: I was in traffic for three hours behind that nonsense.
STEVE: We should probably get a pistol for the car.
SARA: Are you kidding?
KARL: S'not a bad idea. S'a third time this month someone got popped.
STEVE [to SARA]: Third time, Sara.
KARL: And when the hurricanes come, there's always the looters, you know, you gotta keep them back at the perimeter, stand your ground.
STEVE: Stand your ground, Sara ...
SARA: I don't want a gun in my life!
STEVE: I'm not asking you to decide!
SARA: I get that! Thanks!
[SAM registers surprise and shouts at his computer.]
STEVE: So what else, uh, happened with your day?
KARL: Oh, well, y'know, you name it—
SAM [giving the computer the finger]: Fuck you!
KARL:—my wife's very sick with cancer in her female parts ...
SARA: I'm sorry.
KARL: S'okay, it's not your fault, but she calls me all day crying from the hospital, s'very sad, and then that neighbor of yours, next door, whoo!
STEVE: We haven't really gotten to know him yet—
SARA [half-overlapping]: Or even seen him, really—
KARL: Well, trust me, he's the icing on the cake!
STEVE: What'd he do?
KARL: Oh boy. S'a sad story. S'a sad, sad story.
[KARL sprays as he talks. And SAM, meanwhile, gets up, stomps into the bedroom, and then returns with his camera.]
This guy is some sort of, uh, computer genius for NASA, with the pretty girlfriend, the good looks, the whole nine yards, until one day, they go out driving in their Miata down the Highway One.
STEVE [to SARA]: That's a cute little car.
KARL: Yah, it's cute, but then a tanker truck full of orange juice pulls up alongside them and doesn't see them as he's moving over to turn onto the Tropicana access road, knocks the Miata over, and bam, kills the girl dead.
[SAM uses a cord to plug the camera into his MacBook Pro.]
SARA: Oh, no.
KARL: Yah, but wait. There's more. Then, flipped over like that, the car slides about a hundred feet on the shoulder, and as it's going along, schmear, it scrapes half the skin off the poor guy.
STEVE: How do you know all this?
STEVE: Who told you what happened?
KARL: The girl in the office. She warn me before I go in, because all he does is sit there, you know ... alone all the time, and he looks kinda bad. S'pretty sad.
STEVE [to SARA]: You should check in on him.
SARA: I will.
KARL [to STEVE]: S'okay if I go in the bedroom?
KARL [to SARA]: I always ask.
[KARL exits into the bedroom. STEVE and SARA argue quietly.]
SARA: I don't want a gun in my home.
STEVE: It would be in the car—
SARA: I don't care! I don't want a gun!
STEVE: This is not Minnesota, Sara. It's Florida! It's a little different!
SARA: If it's that different, maybe we shouldn't be here!
STEVE: Well, it's a little late for that, now that everything's working out!
[SARA walks to the bedroom door and talks to KARL.]
KARL [offstage]: Yah?
SARA: What exactly are you spraying for?
KARL [offstage]: Huh?
SARA: What kind of bugs are you spraying for?
KARL [offstage]: Ohhh, palmetto bugs. Thrips. Couch crickets. You name it.
SARA: And are they really that dangerous?
STEVE: Sara, just let the man do his work.
SARA [to STEVE, sotto voce]: I hate that we're doing this.
STEVE [sotto voce]: Sara, we can't be living with bugs.
SARA [while looking at STEVE]: Is killing them really necessary?
[KARL comes out of the bedroom.]
KARL: Yah, it's pretty much recommended. You know, in these warmer climates, even when it seems like you're all alone, you know, the little guys are everywhere, waitin' in the wings. I saw a house yesterday—this s'a sad story—I saw a house yesterday where there were almost more termites in the house than could even hold the place together anymore.
KARL [after a micro-beat for "Dog"]: Yah. Every space where there was structure in the place was become filled with them. You couldn't see it. But you could feel it. There was a "vvmm" under the surface, a "vvvmmmmm."
KARL: Yah. The little guys had become the whole structure of the house. The whole house was alive ... and breakin' up ... at the SAMe time. S'pretty sad.
[KARL starts spraying again.]
STEVE: So you're spraying for termites here too, I hope?
KARL: No, you can't spray for those little guys. They're like the looters, you know, you just gotta keep 'em back at the perimeter.
[KARL keeps working. STEVE gives SARA a look, then continues.]
STEVE: What's your name, sir?
STEVE: What's your name?
STEVE: I'm Steve.
KARL: Nice to meetcha.
STEVE: This is my wife, Sara.
KARL: Hey there.
STEVE: So you're still, uh, working at your age, huh? That's pretty remarkable.
KARL: Yah. I tried to retire, you know, back in the nineties, but I almost went crazy, sitting around the house. Game shows. Gimme a break.
STEVE: I'm just the SAMe way.
SARA: Where are you from, originally?
SARA: Neat. We just moved down here from Minnesota six weeks ago.
STEVE: Mosquito country.
KARL: Yah. I had a cousin up in New Munich once.
SARA: Oh, what's his name?
KARL: He's dead.
SARA: I'm sorry.
KARL: S'okay, it's not your fault.
STEVE: D'ja go to church, growing up, Karl?
STEVE: I said, did you go to church when you were growing up?
STEVE: I don't know. Just curious. I've always been interested in people's beliefs.
Excerpted from GRACE by CRAIG WRIGHT. Copyright © 2012 Craig Wright. Excerpted by permission of Northwestern University Press.
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Production History.................... ix