As Nancy, Alexander applies a wry, sometimes lacerating, perspective to everything around her. Grow up, she tells everyone around her, as she shucks off all the expectations of wife- and motherhood. This critic hopes Alexander earns a Tony nomination for Grand Horizons; her performance is a many-shaded joy to watch.
GRAND HORIZONS Broadway Reviews
Bill and Nancy have spent fifty full years as husband and wife. They practically breathe in unison, and can anticipate each other's every sigh, snore and sneeze. But just as they settle comfortably into their new home in Grand Horizons, the unthinkable happens: Nancy suddenly wants out. As their two adult sons struggle to cope with the shocking news, they are forced to question everything they assumed about the people they thought they knew best. By turns funny, shocking and painfully honest, Bess Wohl's new play explores a family turned upside-down and takes an intimate look at the wild, unpredictable, and enduring nature of love.
BWW Review: Jane Alexander, James Cromwell On The Rocky Road To Divorce in Bess Wohl's Very Funny GRAND HORIZONS
In her Broadway debut, playwright Bess Wohl nails the genre beautifully with Grand Horizons, which, with an expert cast perfectly guided by Leigh Silverman's directorial hand, provides two hours of solid laughs (including some pretty high peaks of riotous guffaws) while quizzically pondering issues of love and marriage.
Second Stage Theater seems to be single-handedly attempting to revive the boulevard comedy on Broadway. There was a time when the Great White Way was dominated by such middlebrow, mass-appeal fare, with the late, great Neil Simon as the chief avatar of the genre. Just months after staging Tracy Letts' genial comedy "Linda Vista," Second Stage has mounted Bess Wohl's broadly entertaining "Grand Horizons." (The show opened Thursday at the Helen Hayes Theater.)
Grand Horizons is not especially profound, and its women are written more fully than its men. But in Leigh Silverman's production for Second Stage, the gifted cast-which also includes Maulik Pancholy as Brian's would-be hookup and Priscilla Lopez as a blowsy neighbor-keeps the energy high. And the play does have touching things to say about the difficulty of trying to navigate a course between the Scylla and Charybdis of noncommunication and too much information. "I will be a whole person to you," Nancy tells Brian. "I will." That is one hard lesson of the play, whether Brian is ready to learn it or not: There comes a certain age when, no matter how painful it may be, you have to let your parents leave the nest.
Senior-citizen sex, know-it-all emotionally erratic kids, a looming divorce: It sounds like a pitch for a sitcom as opposed to the newest play from the writer of the somber Make Believe and the minimalist Small Mouth Sounds. Grand Horizons-produced by Second Stage, which commissioned and developed the play with Williamstown Theatre Festival, where Horizons premiered in July-may not be as weighty as some of Wohl's other works, but it's damn funny, and very on-point.
No doubt Wohl and her play have an appealing, compassionate spirit (first on displayed in the playwright's well-received Off Broadway plays American Hero and Small Mouth Sounds), and that goes a long way: Grand Horizons (the title is the name of Bill and Nancy's senior community) is a comfortable, comforting entertainment, its jokes more funny than not, its performances, by and large, expert. Alexander and Cromwell are marvels, pros elevating their material with subtlety and bring-it-home delivery.
To call "Grand Horizons" one of the brightest shows to hit Broadway in years is not to tout its intelligence, which flickers. Rather, I mean that it is blindingly lit, no doubt in deference to the theatrical wisdom that defines comedy as what dies in the dark. And, boy, does "Grand Horizons" want to sell itself as comedy. Not witty comedy with its verbal arabesques, nor intellectual comedy with its Paris Review name-checks, nor meta-comedy with its scrambled plotlines - but the vanilla kind that once dominated commercial theater. It's not entirely meant as praise to say that this Second Stage production is a big-laugh, blue-joke, bourgeois lark of the type Neil Simon mastered until the times mastered him and the genre petered out. There's a reason it did, and perhaps what the playwright Bess Wohl is attempting in "Grand Horizons," which opened on Thursday at the Helen Hayes Theater, is a last-ditch act of reclamation: a boulevard comedy for a cul-de-sac age.
Grand Horizons" has an identity problem. It aims to be both funny like a sitcom and poignant like a perceptive drama, and while it strains credulity at times, thanks to impeccable acting led by Jane Alexander and James Cromwell, the play's forced marriage of humor and pathos does have its moments.
Watching the new comedy by the normally more adventurous playwright Bess Wohl, it's hard to avoid the feeling that it resembles a never-aired episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. The play features a squabbling elderly couple and their adult children who trade sharp one-liners while dealing with a domestic crisis. And if you've seen the memorable episode of the long-running sitcom in which Marie, the family matriarch played by Doris Roberts, crashes a car through the Barone family house, you will have effectively gotten a sneak preview of one of the more startling moments in Second Stage Theater's Broadway production of Grand Horizons.
Grand Horizons is a new play, but not new in the Broadway sense. This sort of thing abounded in the third quarter of the last century. Some were hits, often major; does anyone remember Never Too Late? (Middle-aged mom gets pregnant to the shock of her husband, pregnant daughter, and son-in-law, for 1,007 performances.) Watching the first act of Grand Horizons, I was swept back to a different old play, a negligible 1972 offering called 6 Rms Riv Vu. This was mostly because that play demonstrated the comic touch of the then-young Alexander, who has spent a good deal of her career playing more serious fare. Her deft performance in Grand Horizons is decidedly reminiscent of that earlier play, which despite her ministrations and those of the equally young Jerry Orbach proved to be a flimsy comedy trying too hard to compete with ol' Doc Simon, a popular gagman of the era.