Paradoxically, the chill Buntrock pro-jects onto Sunday in the Park strengthens rather than diminishes the effect of this notoriously problematic work. The show's fixation on the knotty pathways of the creative process, realized by Sondheim with pinpoint brilliance, will always resonate with a diehard core of fans, but puts off wider audiences. The cold aura of Buntrock's production, echoing the cold reception the world usually gives creativity, ultimately produces tears where the fervent warmth of Lapine's original drew blank stares.
Fervency draws only numbness at Mick Gordon and AC Grayling's Grace, a parable of faith versus reason so abstractly drawn, and so slackly dramatized, that even a theologian would have trouble explaining what Manhattan Class Company saw in this script, other than its British cachet. Director Joseph Hardy tries to cover for the barren text by having his actors barrel through it with maximum fervor. The commanding Lynn Redgrave, as the rationalist who resents her son's newfound religiosity, convincingly grounds her barreling in a genuine sense of pain; the others, except for Philip Goodwin as Redgrave's self-effacing husband, merely shout across the script's void. Bernard Shaw's Too True to Be Good (Project Shaw's February reading) demonstrates that, in earlier days, at least one London playwright could find dramatically gripping words for an atheist parent and a clergyman son to exchange.