Review: LATER LIFE at Katonah Classic Stage

An A.R. Gurney play not to be missed.

COMPCORD ENSEMBLE MEETS HOT WRK ENSEMBLE to Play Howland Cultural Center in June

A.R. Gurney's underrecognized play, Later Life, is the Katonah Classic Stage's newest production, now running through May 7.

The setting is 1973 on the penthouse terrace of a cocktail party in Boston. Austin (played by Thomas Jay Ryan) is a middle-aged divorced man who is likeable, polite, respectable, responsible, rooted, and successful. The hostess, Sally (Kelly McAndrew of reintroduces him to Ruth (Carolyn McCormick at, a woman he met about 30 years ago in Capri while he was serving in the Navy, and she was traveling in Italy. He barely remembers her, but she sure remembers every detail about their brief time together.

Ruth is equally pleasant, but her life has been filled with restlessness and tragedy. Widowed once after seven days, she remarried and divorced three times, and suffered the unimaginable pain of losing a child to leukemia. Still, she wondered about Austin, from whom she parted after he told her he was afraid of something terrible that was going to happen to him.

Their conversations are interrupted by a flow of men and women (all played by Matthew Boston and McAndrew) who want to see the views of Boston Harbor from the terrace. In their conversations, they talk about how they've flourished and waned over the years. Even thirty years later, Austin still thinks that some "terrible thing" is going to happen. Ruth is running away from her ex-husband, whom she married twice despite his violence and gambling addiction. By the end of the party, they both realize that they are not willing to change their ways to recapture their missed opportunity and start their lives anew.

Gurney's plays don't always have the satisfying ending that people want, and Later Life's ending is logical and unsurprising. It takes a lot to want to change one's life, even if that life is less than ideal. But Ruth and Austin are products of their past. Played by McCormick and Ryan, these characters are credible and strong notwithstanding their disparate lives. While Ryan and McCormick have the acting chops to carry the play on their own, the performances by Boston and McAndrew in various roles liven up the play. Gurney does a clever thing by making these characters so different from Austin and Ruth. They symbolize that there are a variety of choices people make in their lives. Jimmy, for example, is a former professor of philosophy at Brandeis University, and he determined to give up smoking despite his eloquent ode to tobacco. Duane is a computer geek, and his off-stage wife is a Luddite. Esther and Ted have relocated from Texas to Boston and are determined to meet a lot of people because "everyone has a story." They add comic relief to Austin and Ruth's bittersweet story, but they are such diversified roles that any actor would be proud to have under his belt.

As if the professionalism of the cast weren't enough, the skillful direction by Christa Scott-Reed ( would have made Pete Gurney proud. The crew helped make this a first-rate production. Laura Valenti's stunning set design combines beauty with simplicity. The terrace takes over the entire stage with its nice hardscaping, outdoor furniture, and zones for intimate conversation and for viewing Boston Harbor. (Visit to see what she's done with Our Town, the play that usually just has wooden chairs and nothing else. She works magic.) Kudos also to technical director and set builder Eric Zoback and set builder Sharon Wolff for executing Valenti's vision. This production was in Whippoorwill Hall in the North Castle Public Library, and it has real theater seats and a large stage. John Gromada's sound design made every word clear, and Anthony Santora's lighting design was flawless with the added touch of seeing stars in the background. Emily Geldermann's many costumes were perfect for each character. Ceilidh Welsch is the wardrobe manager, a much-needed position for each character who flitted in and off stage. Erin Gioia Albrecht and Lily Archambault were the stage management team, making everything onstage seem smooth and seamless.

Don't miss the opportunity to see a Gurney play that's not often produced and to discover that professional theater is close and convenient in Westchester County. All the actors are members of Actors Equity, and the crew has professional credentials. This production is playing at the beautiful North Castle Public Library, 19 Whippoorwill Place East in Armonk. It's in the heart of an area with nice restaurants, so you can make it a terrific evening. Check out Katonah Classic Stage's online auction is going on through the end of the show's run on May 7. There are some amazing items including being able to host your own Katonah Classic Stage reading.

Mark your calendars for August 12 for the 4th Annual KCS Film Festival at the Bedford Playhouse and October 12 through 22 for a Harold Pinter tribute.

For tickets and more information about Katonah Classic Stage, visit Click Here or call (844) 527-7469.

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Sherry Shameer Cohen is an award winning parachute journalist and blogger who is always looking for more challenging work. Her articles and photos have appeared in Connecticut Magazine, Greenwich Maga... (read more about this author)


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