What does it take to believe? Or even to suspend disbelief? This was the central question Sandra Deer was asking in AMAZING GRACE, which the Back Alley produced in 1988. Perhaps it was the formulaic plot, in which a hard-boiled police lieutenant, played by Daryl Roach, reluctantly approaches an aging psychic, Grace, played by Patricia Huston, to solve a string of child abductions, that divided audiences and reviewers. Throw in an actress who’s bought Grace’s life story and her disabled grandson, an unaware visionary, and you’ve got either a TV melodrama for non-believers or a revival meeting for those who do.

We found it compelling, but most didn’t agree. Don Shirley in the LA Times said, “This isn’t so much a play as it is a testimonial to its protagonist…When Grace finally gives us a sample of Teacher, the spirit whom she channels, the play loses whatever credibility it had.” But the Star-News called it, “a sweetly superb bit of theatre.” Another critic said it was a reminder that the “Things of this world are mighty precious.”

Sandra Deer, who was the literary manager at Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, wrote only one play that’s still in print, “So Long on Lonely Street.” None of her bios even mention AMAZING GRACE. It sank into theatre history like a stone.

–Laura Zucker