Angels and Ministers of GraceThis is a play about cause and effect in the curious, inescapable institution we call family.  The mind plays tricks, or said better, events play tricks on the mind. Things that have happened affect in unspoken ways things that will happen or refuse to happen.  Every family has its history.

There I was again at the NJ Repertory Company in Long Branch, where I always arrive a little early to experience the set before it is populated.  The single room stage had been transformed this time into the kitchen dining area of a wood frame farmhouse.  The light fell generously on the exposed wooden beams. The set would persist through the play I knew, with its usual stillness, while the humans worked through their situations, with words and gestures.  The lights would flicker, even shut down completely several times, all appropriate to the drama of the moment, and then return calmly to announce a new day.

The worst kind of tragedy has happened and it hovers over the action.  Guilt is a powerful director.  Guardian angels are meant to protect, and when they don’t the world is askew and strange things happen.

That is all I will tell you, except to list the characters, say something about who they are and urge you to let them tell you their story.

Dana Benningfield is Miriam, functioning but altered.  She is the divorced head of a household without children.  She lives with her sister and a brother who visits every day in the house where they were raised by parents long deceased.

Maureen Stillman is the sister, Arletta, agoraphobic, given to flights of fancy.  Artistic and spiritual, she wants to be hopeful, but carries a great burden.

David Van Pelt makes us feel his frustration as the slighted, reluctantly accommodating Jimmy Ray. He is well meaning but no one, it seems, has ever expected much from him.

James Earley is Frank, Miriam’s estranged husband, with a new family of his own and young children. He conscientiously tries to reduce the estrangement with a plan, but is it self-interest or genuine concern.

Can the characters rise above themselves and the events that have brought them to this juncture?

Playwright:  Elaine Smith;   Director Marc Geller

Set Design & Props: Jessica Parks, Lighting Design:    Jill Nagle, Sound Design: Merek Royce Press, Costume Design:     Patricia E. DohertyTechnical Director: Michael Carroll, Stage Manager:  Jennifer Tardibuono

New Jersey Repertory Company (179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ); Regular Performance Schedule through November 23;  Thursdays & Fridays 8pm; Saturdays 3pm & 8pm; Sundays at 2pm & select Sundays at 7pm Tickets are available at or by calling 732-229-3166 For more information about New Jersey Repertory Company please visit