Grand Horizons

Nancy (Jane Alexander) wants a divorce and Bill (James Cromwell) acquiesces without comment.

So starts Bess Wohl’s moving and hilarious dramedy Grand Horizons, the latest offering from Second Stage Theater. The hitch with this decision, however, is that the seemingly harmonious couple has been married for 50 years!

How could this happen? What does this mean? Is this acceptable? These questions are front of mind to their two alarmed sons Ben and Brian (played by Ben McKenzie and Michael Urie) who arrive en masse with panic in their hearts and confusion on their minds. Brian, who is single, struggles almost hysterically to understand the whats and whys of his parent’s decision. Ben has an equally disturbed reaction, though he is modulated by his wife (played by Ashley Park) who is a therapist and is looking at the situation from an outside perspective, providing nearly professional grade commentary/assistance about this turn of events. As she relays between the boys and their parents she quickly finds herself the odd woman out.

Photo by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

As the play unfolds in moments both touching and comical, the couple’s marriage is opened up, revealing what usually lies beneath and out of view. As is most common, anyone’s marriage is a secret world except for the two partners involved.

Clint Ramos’s outstanding scenic design reveals a cookie-cutter home in an assisted living complex, comfortable but standardized, as well as a delightful curtain scrim with a moving image aerial view of their neighborhood complete with cars driving down the streets and birds flying through the air.

The finely tuned cast lends a grounded tone to the dialogue which allows for peak moments that reach close to “over-the-top” (including a fantastic special effect that closes Act I) but just stop short to keep the material realistic. As the marriage is dissected through a series of continually exposing scenes it becomes clear that, no matter a person’s age, discord can creep in any time.

There is a shift at the end with a touching final scene—as Nancy and Bill face each other down, alone and in completely naked honesty, they find that they may be able to attain that which will keep them together, asking each other cautiously but optimistically. Maybe they don’t want out afterall…

Grand Horizons currently runs at the Helen Hayes Theater.