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Old-fashioned stage comedy is in short supply on Broadway, for the good reason that comic tastes in the U.S. have changed. We no longer have a Neil Simon because we no longer need a Neil Simon, a purveyor of joke-slinging stage sitcoms for suburbanites. Mr. Simon’s place in the theatrical universe was long ago taken over by network TV. (Why, then, don’t we have an Alan Ayckbourn? Because England’s funniest playwright specializes in a uniquely English brand of farce, the sad comedy of middle-class manners…but that’s a different piece.) Yet we still feel the need to laugh when we go to the theater, perhaps more so than ever before. Hence the warm response to James Graham’s “Ink,” Tracy Letts’ “Linda Vista” and Theresa Rebeck’s “Seared,” all of which were really, really funny—as well as to Bess Wohl’s “Grand Horizons,” which is, by contrast, only just funny enough.
To be sure, “Grand Horizons” has a promising setting, the cookie-cutter apartment of Nancy and Bill French (Jane Alexander and James Cromwell), an octogenarian couple who live in “a private home in an independent living community for seniors.” (You know where you are because there are red panic buttons and easy-to-spot grab bars close to every door.) Such communities are new to American theater. What is life like for their residents? What do they do with themselves all day long, and how do they feel about it? The answers to these questions could be the stuff of an interesting play, but Ms. Wohl doesn’t even try to deliver the goods, choosing instead to start the show by setting off an old-fashioned comic firecracker. Nancy and Bill sit down to dinner. “I think I would like a divorce,” she tells him. “All right,” he replies. Blackout….
Unfortunately, what follows is a string of missed comic opportunities….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
A video featurette about Grand Horizons: