Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Also see Richard's recent review of Every Brilliant Thing
Still, a terrific cast can occasionally lift an intentionally tired, forgettable play into the adjacencies of greatness. Grand Horizons will do, for a two hour and fifteen minute romp, with outstanding actors reinforcing its hum-drum characters, adding flawless timing and some delightful psychologies, like expert craftsmen assembling rinky-dink furniture, in Bess Wohl's low-end couch play.
The Moonstone Theatre cast is led by the dean of actors in St. Louis, Joneal Joplin, in fine form as a dour retired pharmacist; it also features his son Jared Joplin, impressive as his on-stage son, a stressed-out lawyer. However, it's the matriarch of the family, Nancy, played by fascinating Sarah Burke, who gets most of the best lines and scenes as this retired librarian wanting a late-in-life divorce. The powerful tides of humor and pathos seem to advance and retreat at her command.
Otherwise, the play bears a pronounced "louder, faster, funnier" stamp, thanks to producer/director Sharon Hunter, who (to her credit) strives to select plays that are still relatively fresh to most local audiences. Sometimes it doesn't work out, entirely. Smart, unpredictably witty Cassidy Flynn is frequently reduced to playing a comic, blaring smoke alarm as the younger, gay son. The actors are almost always left to figure out performance texture and subtlety and transitional moments on their own, and the results are hit or miss. The older actors are most able to fend for themselves against the twin threats of superficial writing and directing.
That said, Mr. Flynn, as Brian, has an exceptionally fine scene, in an "NSA date" with charming William Humphrey in the middle of the play, in the middle of the night, in his parents' retirement village apartment. Both men shine, possibly benefitting from the added assistance of intimacy choreographer Tress Kurzym. Maybe she'd make a good permanent assistant director for Ms. Hunter, who at least makes sure that all the trains run on time.
Bridgette Bassa is very fine as the pregnant daughter-in-law Jess, a therapist beseeching the family to communicate more effectively, though she too emits the smoke alarm dialect in climactic moments. Local favorite Carmen Garcia is also on hand in an unexpectedly mysterious scene after the intermission with Ms. Burke, in which silent tension and understated drama are allowed to waver like a ghostly flame. More of that, please.
Moonstone Theatre Company's Grand Horizons runs through April 2, 2023, at Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, 210 E. Monroe Avenue, Kirkwood MO. For tickets and information, please visit www.moonstonetheatrecompany.com.
* Member, Actors' Equity Association