David Alan Moore’s play about grief, clinical and humane by turns, examines a town coping after an unimaginably tragic hostage standoff at its elementary school. The story is based on the real events in Chechnya five years ago, and this topical anchor lends an aura of authenticity that helps temper occasional maudlin and histrionic moments, while the presence of an angel/seraph figure, who silently observes and helps the townspeople come to terms, occasionally drags the show down as a tired and fairly superfluous trope. That said, the writing is superb, with convincing characters and a well-paced plot, and the actors rise to the challenge of presenting extreme pain while remaining emotionally flexible, particularly Julie Cowden as a mother forced to choose between her Christian values and her child. But where the story is extremely compelling on its own, much of the artistic direction frankly detracts from its power, including aerial choreography and a musical ending seemingly designed to create pathos that’s truly needless in such a well-conceived and moving show. (Monica Westin)
At Stage Left Theatre, 3408 N Sheffield, (773) 883-8830. Through March 28.