John Patrick Shanley Goes Back to Bronx Roots for Storefront Church

By Harry Haun
02 Jun 2012

Jordan Lage and Bob Dishy
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

He has picked an impeccable cast of six to speak his Shanleyese: Giancarlo Esposito, Ron Cephas Jones, Tonya Pinkins, Bob Dishy, Zach Grenier and Jordan Lage.

Absolutely nothing about the meth dealer he plays on "Breaking Bad" qualifies Esposito for public office, but he got the nod for borough president anyway, and Jones is the minister with his mitts up. "Tonya," explains Shanley, "in the play, she owns a mixed-use building in the Bronx. She lives upstairs, and downstairs is her store where this guy has started a storefront church. She's a devout woman and has lent him money for a renovation, and that causes her to go into default on her mortgage."

Shanley, who wrote an Oscar role for the "Moonstruck" Cher, has spent the past several months writing one-act plays about the opposite sex. "It's sorta Women International. It's about different characters of women from different cultures." He has seven to date and no idea what the to do with them, but he'll press on. "I figured I'd write them all and see what I've done and then decide where they'll go."

On the trilogy front, he says he can see clearly now. "I think, with the third play, it all comes to a landing place. I feel a sense of resolution about it. I'm quite pleased with Storefront Church. What it says is very applicable to the time we're living in. There is a dearth of places for people who have a spiritual hunger to satisfy, and there's a dearth of places for people who have the hunger for community to satisfy. Where else is there a legitimate and safe place to satisfy those needs?"

(This feature appears in the June 2012 issue of Playbill magazine.)