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Richard Nelson’s Women of a Certain Age is a contemporary family story that takes place on Election Night 2016 around the kitchen table of the Gabrielle Family of Rheinbeck, NY. Waiting for the national election returns to come in, the Family gathers for one final meal at their soon-to-be-possessed old homestead, which is soon passing into stranger’s hands. Amidst the chaos, the family prepares a meal together and recollects and reflects on the drifting nature of ‘family’ in a less and less comprehensible world. It is a play swollen near to bursting with sorrow and comfort, with losses absorbed and yet-to-come, with crushing disappointments but also with stubborn strains of humor and humanity.
The past is a tangible presence for this family, and the encroaching loss of the house means they have been sorting through bureaus and trunks, turning up long-forgotten pieces of their history. That includes a 1910 issue of Ladies' Home Journal that sparks talk of the ways women have or haven't changed; and Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls, which becomes the source of the evening's menu. In contrast to all the election racket outside, watching this group in this cozy space making shepherd's pie, pouring a beer or glazing cookies, is quite therapeutic.
Says playwright Richard Nelson, ‘With The Gabriels, as with my previous series The Apple Family plays, I am trying to create something else: an intimate world of very human conversations that you will want to lean forward to witness and overhear, as if you were watching and listening through a half opened window or keyhole. My hope is that with these plays, you will want to actively participate, by leaning in and actively listen.’
The Hollywood Reporter writes, ‘The beauty of Nelson's writing is its ability to touch on family and social issues with subtlety and elegance. There are no agenda-driven discussions of the candidates and their respective platforms. Rather, there are seamless plot points and casual references sprinkled through conversations in which subjects like race, class, healthcare, jobs, education, the economy, gentrification and income disparity surface as very real concerns, entirely integral to the fabric of the Gabriel family's world. Even the significance of a young person's first time voting in a presidential election is woven into the dramatic texture…It's part of the small miracle of this quiet stunner of a drama that it takes us away from our worries about an increasingly uncertain, divided world while immersing us deep in the marrow of it.’
‘The playwriting is exquisite,’ says director Sam Pilo. ‘The evening softly drifts and delicately touches on a variety of recognizable small family moments we have all experienced such as filling in the gaps in a box of found letters, the solitude and the preparations for a date that is not really a date, having to take part-time housekeeping work at a local hotel not far from the mansion of a wealthy local family who once employed a grandmother as their maid, or the dire financial situations of how affordable health care for the elderly may soon be unaffordable, and the college education of a son is now in jeopardy. Richard Nelson weaves an easygoing flow of woes, complaints, accomplishments and desires around the simple action of preparing a meal that speaks to the moment we are all sharing. We, as in the audience and the actors together. The audience is also sitting around that table. It’s very delicate and difficult theatrical experience he is trying to achieve as a playwright. Needless to say, it’s wonderful material for actors to sink their teeth into.’