Review: GRAND HORIZONS by Bess Wohl at HOWICK LITTLE THEATRE

A Comedy of Marital Mayhem

By: Mar. 01, 2024
Review: GRAND HORIZONS by Bess Wohl at HOWICK LITTLE THEATRE
Get Access To Every Broadway Story

Unlock access to every one of the hundreds of articles published daily on BroadwayWorld by logging in with one click.




Existing user? Just click login.

50 years – it’s a milestone in any marriage! Thousands of meals eaten together, years of dealing with everything marriage, cohabitation and parenthood can throw at you … Superbly directed with expertise by Penel Keegan with her eye for precision in detail, timing and well-crafted staging, Excellent performances from the entire cast with all the characters  played with physical and psychological truth, motivational credibility, well-shaped dialogue, and vivid facial expression.

The opening scene immediately and succinctly introduces the plot (similar in style to plays by Neil Simon) which will be explored in the next two hours. After a superb sequence of silent movement preparing their dinner, in which the audience can sense repetitive ritualistic boredom and monotony, Nancy (Lynn Webster) announces “I think I want a divorce.” And Bill, (Hamish Stevens) unperturbed, says, “All right.”

 

GRAND HORIZONS is a retirement lifestyle village, or senior living community (transposed to a NZ setting). We get amusing insights into how the couple are surviving – or not surviving it through witty one liners. The story line is simple – but that in itself, provides the opportunity to examine the often awkward reality of family relationships within and across generations. “Children don’t want their parents to be happy. They just want them to be there.”

Adult sons,  drama teacher Brian (James Calverley) and dependable lawyer Ben (David Steadman) and his pregnant counsellor wife Jess (Kristin Reilly), arrive to “sort” the matter out.  Excellent work from these three who capture the tension and conflict with skill. We can appreciate the sibling rivalry between enthusiastic and emotional drama teacher Brian “ I am the first responder. I do the emotional labour” and his brother Ben who feels he is the financial support and carer. We can sense the developing rift between the younger couple.  ”Don’t call me Babe.”  “I just want a regular marriage.”  The sons are appalled at their parents decision, and are keen to keep the couple together. Jess speaks in a soothing counsellor voice trying to unearth the underlying causes. They accuse their mother of having dementia, or having “issues” to deal with. “Are you drinking enough water?”  “You should have divorced earlier like other couples having a midlife crisis – like when we left for university.”

 

But it’s much simpler than this. Both Nancy and Bill are dealing with personal crises, doubting if their lives have been as fulfilling as they had hoped. It turns out Bill has a girlfriend Carla (Ami Coster) on the side and is trying to achieve his dream of becoming a standup comic. Indeed, the audience do enjoy his attempts at joke telling – even if the family are less impressed. Nancy, on the other hand, is making sure she feels says she needs to feel valued, alive and of worth. This she’s managing by leading clothing charity drives.

Outstanding characterisation from Lynn Webster and Hamish Stevens who poignantly capture the psychological truth of Nancy and Bill and convey it with precision in every movement, look and nuance.  The witty well-paced interplay, superbly flippant and realistically delivered, humorous rapport between these two lifts the energy of comic touches.Lyn Webster is superb as the matriarch, the woman who has made the most of a marriage to a man who was not her true love. The audience is captivated as Nancy explicitly confesses her real love and sensually romantic trysts “something this perfect, something this beautiful” with Clive, her former teenage sweetheart.

 

The clever oneliners are a gift  and comedic timing from all the cast guaranteed we appreciated the wit: “Adults never get to do what they want.”  The silences speak volumes. Ironic little touches keep us amused such as Nancy’s humming of “Happy Days are here again” as she makes a sandwich for Bill, and the rest of the family are frozen in silent conflict.

 

 Cameo scenes from Ami Coster as Carla and Benjamin Wickers as Tommy lift the energy  with finesse . Ami Coster is truly delightful as the warm, sexy, forever single Carla who forges an unlikely friendship with Nancy. They laugh together in shared sisterhood as they discuss egg-shaped vibrators, and Nancy thanks Carla for taking Bill off her hands. Benjamin Wickers features as the hilarious but frustrated late night tryst who has to deal with Brian’s stifled emotions.

Set design (Penel Keegan, Matthew Cousins) , sound design (Ray Gabites, Jan Saussey, Blake Elliott),lighting design (Blake Ingram) and well-executed operators (Tony Simmons, Nathaniel Moran) all create the sense of a real retirement community with barking dogs, paper thin walls and thoughtless neighbours. Speedy work from the props team. Productions at Howick Little Theatre are always great entertainment – and this is certainly no exception.

Without a doubt the strength of this play lives in its truth because “truth is the first part of love.”

 

The play runs until 16 March, 2024.

Tickets at www.iticket.co.nz




Videos