Grace and Glorie, Apple Tree Theatre. Mortality is among life's great teachers, as two women discover when the terminally ill 90-year-old Grace (Caitlin Hart) is besieged by type-A hospice volunteer Gloria (Sarah Underwood). Set in Grace's one-room cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Tom Ziegler's play at first suggests that the backwoods elder and the displaced New York overachiever have nothing in common. However, after a few days of companionship and conversation, both are surprised to discover how much they share and can learn from each other. This is the conversation many people wish they'd had with someone before it was too late.
At times Grace comes across as more articulate than an illiterate mountain woman would be, which makes the conversation sound a bit pedantic. Even so, Hart and Underwood's talk ebbs and flows in a beautiful cadence, spanning topics from lunch meat and stitchery to the untimely death of children and the purpose of an ordinary life. While this is clearly an actors' vehicle, Apple Tree Theatre's sound and visual effects--a wood-burning stove that seems to create real warmth, the jarring noises of chain saws and bulldozers destroying Grace's world to make way for a tourist trap, even the dilapidated cabin with its sense of cozy efficiency--also contribute to the audience's visceral response. Bring Kleenex.