Curtain Call Theatre’s Grand Horizon Exposes the Fact Even Our Parents Have a Life
The play begins in silence. Nancy is preparing dinner for her husband, Bill, and herself. He sets the table; she resets the table. Their actions are commonplace yet a tad unsettling as neither utters a sound for what, on stage, appears to be an eternity. They finally sit down to eat, and the first words we hear are Nancy calmly stating she wants a divorce. Bill responds that he is fine, and the meal continues as if she had just asked him to pass the salt. The issue and its delivery generate laughs from the audience. Perhaps the more significant reason for the laughter aside from the spot-on deadpan delivery is the couple in question are nearing their 80s and, as we come to find out, have been married for 50 years.
And so begins Bess Wohl’s Tony-nominated play Grand Horizons currently at Curtain Call Theatre. The play is filled with laughs and yet played for drama. The story is funny and sad… and perhaps not at all unlike many marriages of that duration, the realization that the couple has gone through the motions raised a family, had careers, and now, as they enter the golden years in a lovely retirement community, realize that neither one is particularly happy and are searching for the elusive happy ending to life.
Director Matthew Moross, whose resume includes 45-plus years of experience throughout the Capital Region both on and off stage, does a wonderful job leading his equally talented and experienced cast through a show that could easily have become mired in slapstick and low-brow comedy. He manages to navigate the cast to the high road, never sinking to the easy out, maintaining the seriousness of the moment while still infusing the comedic elements of the play.
New to the Curtain Call stage is Christine Boice Saplin, who brings her years of experience to the role of Nancy. She performs with deliberateness and honesty, a sense of control and calm that builds to create several wonderfully dramatic moments in the show. She carries the cast of characters on a ride that is perfectly bolstered by the performances of those around her.
Phil Rice, another stage vet, brings a wonderful sense of resignation to the part of Bill, a retired pharmacist who, in his retirement, has decided that a shot as a stand-up comedian is the way to enjoy the next phase of life. The only problem is he’s not particularly funny.
Enter Ben (Jeffrey Stubits), the elder son, his very pregnant wife Jess (Josephine O’Connor), and neurotic wimpy younger son Brian ( David Nathanielsz), whose characters are all very stereotypically constructed. Ben is the put-upon son, feeling he has and continues to be the person carrying the weight of the family on his shoulders. Jess is the touchy-feely marriage therapist who only wants to get her in-laws to reconnect literally and metaphorically. Brian is the drama teacher who has cast 200 students in the production of The Crucible in order not to disappoint anyone. He also brings home a one-night stand to his parents’ home and then freaks out when Tommy (Ryan Fuchs) tries to make moves on him.
Finally, we have Carla delightfully played by Kathleen Reilly, the lady whom Bill has become involved with at his comedy workshop and with whom he thinks he will be finding lasting happiness after Nancy announces she wants out.
Andy Nice’s set design creates an accurate portrayal of the somewhat sterile nondescript home of most independent senior living environments. Beth Ruman’s costume designs compliments the characters well.
They are a family of neurotics. Some of the neurosis simmer under the surface, and some boil over the top. Grand Horizons is a play about reality, fraught with perhaps just a touch too much theatrical conceit to make it completely believable. You will laugh with these characters as much as you laugh at them. It will, when you leave the theater, give you pause. If you are of that age demographic, you may just look at your partner and wonder for a moment how much reality is there in what you just saw. If you have parents of that age, you may never look at them in quite the same way again.
Grand Horizons is an intriguing enjoyable few hours. Be advised much of the subject matter and language should be considered for mature audiences. Grand Horizons runs through June 25 at Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham. For reservations and ticket information, call the box office at 518-877-7529 or www.curtaincalltheatre.com.