Asolo Rep's Grand Horizons: Maybe Not So Golden Years

In Bess Wohl's comedy, 50 years of marriage may be enough for one Florida couple.

By Kay Kipling January 23, 2022

Peter Van Wagner, John Rapson, Dayna Lee Palya, Suzanne Grodner and Zachary Prince in Asolo Rep's Grand Horizons.

Image: Cliff Roles

After opening its season with Hair and following that up with a contemporary interpretation of Our Town, Asolo Rep makes a move that should appeal to its core audience with Bess Wohl’s comedy Grand Horizons.

While it’s a relatively new play (on Broadway in 2019), and while it presents dialogue you might not have heard decades ago, this work about a long-married (50 years and counting) couple on the verge of a divorce is old-fashioned in a way that’s probably comfortable just now in our troubled world. Add to that, it’s set in a retirement community in Florida, making it a natural for locals.

Grand Horizons is the name of that community, and the show opens with an all-too believable video promo for the place that depicts seniors enjoying the lifestyle our state is known for, filled with leisure and cultural activities. For Nancy (Suzanne Grodner) and Bill (Peter Van Wagner), though, all the pastel comforts of their cookie-cutter residence and neighborhood can’t disguise the fact they haven’t really talked to each other in years.

That’s evident in the very first scene, where the two wordlessly prepare the table for a meal, in a series of moves choreographed perfectly to set up the opening lines. As they sit down, Nancy opens her mouth to say, “I think I want a divorce.” And Bill responds simply, “All right.”

How did they get here? That’s what Wohl gradually reveals to us, from the longing Nancy felt for years for a former beau to retired pharmacist and wannabe standup comic Bill’s apparent fling with a lively neighbor (Elise Santora in a scene-stealing bit in Act II). Caught up in the domestic drama are the couple’s two grown sons: Ben (John Rapson), who feels heavily the weight of responsibility for his parents as well as for the baby his therapist wife Jess (Dayna Lee Palya) is carrying; and Brian (Zachary Prince), a gay theater teacher who can’t bear to disappoint any of his students—so much so that he ends up casting approximately 200 of them for a production of The Crucible.

Suzanne Grodner and Zachary Prince in Grand Horizons.

Image: Cliff Roles

 Neither Ben nor Brian is ready to face the adult world without their parents as a reliable duo. Jess tries to get everyone to sit down and discuss things, while coming to realizations that she hasn’t had about her own marriage as well. One way Brian attempts to cope is with a potential one-night stand (a brief scene with Lance Spencer that doesn’t really work here), while Ben scratches his eczema-ridden hands and stays up late working on his computer.

Wohl has some sharp observations and comedy lines in Grand Horizons (along with an Act I closer you won’t see coming), and director Celine Rosenthal makes sure we don’t miss any of them without hitting us over the head, either. We know a lot about Nancy just from the way she packs up a sandwich to go for her husband despite wanting to split with him, and a scene where she speaks frankly to Brian about a past sexual experience is bound to get slightly shocked laughs. (Come on, people, don’t we know yet from Golden Girls and Grace and Frankie that seniors have sex?) Grodner couldn’t be further from the presence of Jane Alexander, who played Nancy on Broadway; but she has her own likable, warm and slightly daffy personality to engage us, and she hits all the right notes.

Van Wagner, who understudied his role in the Broadway production, likewise knows how to be funny/grumpy on cue. Prince has maybe his best scene when he responds with horror to his mother’s aforementioned sex story; and Rapson and Palya are convincing as marrieds worried about their impending parenthood.

Grand Horizons offers a bit of depth when it has its characters, especially Nancy, ask what they really want from life, however much of it there is left. But in general, it’s like a sitcom you enjoy for its familiarity more than its innovation. The production continues through April 1; for tickets call (941) 351-8000 or go to  

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