A man and woman are passed out naked on a sofa under a blanket after a night of sixty-something hookup sex. This is the startling tableau that greeted audiences upon entering the Anacostia Arts Center black box to see Morning After Grace — a truly funny and touching play about three retired seniors whose leases on life get a surprising extension.
The vividly drawn characters — Abigail and Angus (initially in flagrante) and Oliver (who comes in later) — are of an age cohort that the playwright, Carey Crim, remarkably does not belong to. “I am just a generation behind the Boomers,” she has said, explaining her inspiration for the play, “so I thought of my own life and how I hope to move through it as I age. Also there are so many incredible talents out there that are over sixty. It’s a privilege to write for them.”
The credibility, appeal, and playability of Crim’s characters — plus the fact that the play’s pace, plot, and punchlines make it about as well made as a seriocomic play can be, brimming with eloquence about love, longing, aging, and loss — had to have been what prompted director Stevie Zimmerman to recommend the play and persuaded the creatives and the Valley Place Arts Collaborative to put it on. Happily, they did, albeit unevenly so. Seeing and savoring this superb script on its feet was a satisfaction in itself.
In fairness, the production was beset by multiple postponements due to snowstorms, cast illness, and a catastrophic gas explosion a few doors away (no one was hurt, but Anacostia Arts Center shuttered). Finally what was planned as a two-weekend run had to be truncated to one. Zimmerman, owing to a prior commitment, could not continue to opening, so in the last few days Lisa Hodsoll stepped in to “pinch hit.” All in all, the show deserves a nom for Best Little Production That Could.
The big joke at the beginning is that Abigail (an understated Adele Robey) and Angus (a robust Matty Griffiths) met the morning before at the funeral of Grace (hence the title) — and Grace was Angus’ wife. (Granted, that’s implausible, but Crim pulls it off.) The comic reveals keep on coming like a cascade of quick wit. Abigail and Angus spar over who hit on whom, for instance. And Angus notes dryly that “at our age, funerals are better than singles bars.”
The setting is a condo in a Florida retirement community, here a living room and kitchenette designed handsomely by Gisela Estrada (representing what was likely Grace’s taste). When a neighbor drops by — a retired baseball player named Ollie (DeJeanette Horne, in extraordinary form) — the big joke is that Ollie assumes Angus has paid for Abigail’s favors. (Weird, but it works — especially once we learn what her healing role in these men’s lives will be as a grief counselor.) Meanwhile, Angus suspects Ollie of having had an affair with Grace, prompting a cocky physical fight between them (choreographed stunningly by Casey Kaleba) that Abigail has to break up. Then another big reveal: Ollie is gay — which introduces a storyline about Ollie’s partner James and 92-year-old father that later occasions a coming-out monologue performed heartbreakingly by Horne.
And for a fun glimpse at these Boomers’ inner adolescence, wait till the bong comes out. “Good Vibrations” on the soundtrack (designed by Christian Jones) sums it up.
Morning After Grace contains such a steady stream of hilarity alongside compassionate heartache — and such deeply sympathetic insight into the quirks and truths of characters of a so-called certain age — that it deserves a major production and film development. Thanks to Valley Place Arts Collaborative for this enticing and uplifting showcase.
Running Time: Two hours, including a 10-minute intermission.
Morning After Grace played February 1 to 4, 2024, presented by Valley Place Arts Collaborative performing at Anacostia Arts Center, 1231 Marion Barry Ave SE (formerly Good Hope Road SE), Washington, DC.
Morning After Grace
By Carey Crim
Directed by Stevie Zimmerman
“Pinch Hit” Director: Lisa Hodsoll
Angus: Matty Griffiths
Abigail: Adele Robey
Oliver: DeJeanette Horne
DESIGN AND PRODUCTION
Set Design: Gisela Estrada
Lighting Design: Asia Christian
Sound Design: Christian Jones
Prop Design and Costume Consult: Andrew Reilly
Stage Manager: Laura Schlachtmeyer
Production Manager: Paige Washington
Fight and Intimacy Coordinator: Caset Kaleba
Master Carpenter: Matty Griffiths