Oscar E Moore

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GRAND HORIZONS – Divorce Sit-Com Style

January 31st, 2020 by Oscar E Moore

The more I think of this newest offering by playwright Bess Wohl at 2nd Stage – The Helen Hayes Theater – the less I like it.  The underlying themes are easy enough to digest but the premise is hard to swallow.  Perhaps it might help if were subtitled – a fable.

Taking place in the here and now.  In a retirement community Grand Horizons – where all the house are alike – Monopoly cubes reminiscent of Levittown Long Island.  Where the walls are paper thin and the plants artificial.  Realistic breakaway set design by Clint Ramos.

Nancy and Bill have been married for fifty years. Their life together has become routine.  As they prepare their breakfast and set their table director Leigh Silverman has staged it as though they could do this with their eyes closed; in their sleep.  The most excellent and elegant Jane Alexander in wonderful dead pan delivery asks for a divorce.  James Cromwell agrees.  Fadeout.

It’s mostly downhill after that.

We meet their two offspring:  The hyper/gay unable to commit dramatic instructor Brian (Michael Urie) and his more rooted brother Ben (Ben McKenzie) whose very pregnant wife Jess (Ashley Park) a therapist, have come to the rescue to forestall the inevitable divorce.

Dad will soon face the audience to tell of his desire to be a stand-comic whose jokes to not amuse his soon-to-be-ex-wife.  And have never amused her it appears.  She also has never had her own bank account.  Really?  She is an intelligent, well informed woman and this is 2020.  It’s impossible to believe that she has never heard of Women’s Lib of the late 60’s early 70’s nor has ever seen the terrific Virginia Slims ads featuring women “free from oppression” – Nancy still has a long way to go and so now she wants out.  Finally.

As the ad campaign continued – “Used to be every man’s wife was entitled to an opinion.  His.”  Man ran the world.  Women ran the household.  And so it has been for Nancy and Bill.  But that is about to end according to Bess Wohl in what used to be called a Boulevard Comedy a la Neil Simon.  Ms. Wohl is no Neil Simon – although there are lots of jokes and some amusing situations and monologues – that border on the raunchy and/or ridiculous.

Nancy’s confession to her gay son about her tryst with a guy named Hal and Carla’s instructions on how to order a vibrator on the internet are borderline cringe worthy.

Carla shows up in Act II (which fares much better than the first after its absurd cliffhanger) – Carla is the secret girlfriend of Bill whom he has sex-texted to and is portrayed by the still wonderful Pricilla Lopez who has a tete-a-tete with Nancy (who views this mistress as her salvation from Bill) regarding the aforementioned vibrator.  Audience chuckles all around.

The gay son, at one moment, brings back to the home a casual would be sex partner.  A trick into role playing that fizzles faster than Alka-Seltzer.  A scene better off cut.  This thankless role of Tommy is played by Maulik Pancholy who does his best under the circumstances.

Take away:  Tell it like it is.  Be honest with each other.  Be open.  No secrets.  This is how it should be in the real world.  Then maybe people, couples could communicate with each other and their children.  Being stuck in a relationship would not be so prevalent.  Do it, before it’s too late.  And have your own bank account.

2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission.  Through March 1st.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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