Playwright Bess Wohl made it to Broadway in 2019 with a play festooned with systematic observations and offbeat family reactions to an elderly couple’s desire to divorce after a half-century of marriage.
Called Grand Horizons – named after the independent living community that senior citizens Nancy (Lourelene Snedeker) and her husband, Bill (Michael Gioia) call home — the show is a cauldron of complexities that mixes laughable situations with sharp one-liners, family interactions that often go awry and plenty of self-examination by all parties concerned with their parents’ proposed demutualization.
The production, playing through Feb. 26 at the Boca Stage in the Sol Theatre, is a heart-wrenching commentary on marriage, family and the wisdom that should come with age – but often doesn’t.
Grand Horizons is an entertaining, sharply written play that could easily stand on its own devices. But director Genie Croft ups the ante by tapping a talented array of capable performers who provide strong role development, intriguing acting abilities and lots of oomph to make the production even more worthy of seeing.
She offered plaudits to the fine acting troupe. In addition to Snedeker and Gioia, the production features Wayne LeGette and Jordan Armstrong as the elder couple’s sons, Ben and Brian; Jacqueline Laggy as Ben’s pregnant wife, Jess and Angie Radosh as a potential love interest for Bill. Kevin Cruz shows up as Tommy, a possible lover for the younger son. But their brief scene hinting at a one-sided seduction effort does little to relieve Brian’s constant whining about living a life alone.
Jordan Armstrong, Kevin Cruz in Grand Horizons at Boca Stage. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)
The show makes an interesting leap from a serenely quiet opening to more boisterous and eventful moments when family members expose their own weaknesses, faults and foibles as they try to figure out why mom and dad want to untie the knot. Ben, the big brother who boasts about being the first to pull fannies out of fires, seems to emulate his own parents’ ennui by ignoring his pregnant wife’s plaintive cry to stop calling her “Babe,” a name she once liked, but now hates.
Brian also seems to mirror mom and dad by generally ignoring their plight and turning his attention inward.
Jess, a therapist, makes a feeble, but particularly silly effort by encouraging her in-laws to hold hands – something they probably haven’t done in years. The resulting grimace on both of their faces shows the decision missed its mark.
The production opens with a short, but remarkably hard-hitting statement. Over dinner, Nancy turns to Bill on the second bite of mashed potatoes and calmly announces that she wants a divorce. “All right,” he answers, continuing to eat. The audience, caught between amazement and revelation, manages to laugh as a dark blue light covers the scene.
The two-hour show (with one intermission) flashes by quickly, owing to the quality of the writing and acting. While family members go to great pains to fathom the whys and wherefores of the potential marital dissolution, Nancy and Bill do little to save their union.
Clearly, love has not flourished in this marriage – and the dearth is painfully obvious. But that doesn’t mean that neither Bill nor Nancy can live without the benefit of loving touches.
Lourelene Snedeker, Wayne LeGette in Grand Horizons at Boca Stage. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)
In a lengthy, highly-erotic retelling of one of her sexual exploits with a man named Hal – outside of her marriage — Nancy overwhelms son Brian by admitting to her intense yearning for “soft touches” and loving praises of her sexuality.
We discover later that Bill knew all about Hal. He said he loved it when Nancy thought about him. “You lit up like a Christmas tree, and I was happy,” he tells her in a rare admission of affection.
Sharing real, unequivocal, handholding, cheek-kissing, tangible love seems missing in the elders’ relationship. And it may happen again with their kids if they don’t shape up. Nancy has already seen Hal disappear. And Carla (Angie Radosh), a potential gal pal for Bill, can barely endure a brief, highly-tense conversation with Nancy before hightailing it out of the room – and, according to Bill, “is never heard from again.”
The play does embody some notable moments. The scene where Nancy slowly, ever so methodically makes a sandwich for Bill while the sons and daughter-in-law watch in awe is…well, awesome.
Lourelene Snedeker in Grand Horizons at Boca Stage. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)