The Empty Nesters
By Garret Jon Groenveld
Starring John (JW) Walker & Pamela Walker
Directed by Richard Seyd
Frances has just dropped off her baby girl at college and looks past her husband with a vacancy in her eyes that shows only a fraction of the void she feels in her broken heart. Greg looks on the bright side, assuming there will be more sex with his wife now that the kids are out of the house. While this couple has had 18 years to prepare for this day, becoming “empty nesters” can feel like falling into a deep abyss of nostalgia, anxiety, and uncertainty.
Sound familiar?? Last weekend we attended opening weekend of the Los Angeles run of “The Empty Nesters” at the Zephyr Theatre. To say it touched a nerve is an understatement! Nearly every one of my friends is facing the empty nester syndrome at this phase of life; some with a newfound sense of freedom and reinvention, and others with deep consuming grief. “The Empty Nesters” explores the harrowing passage of a couple going from habitual creatures of parenting to the limitless opportunities available to them. Placed on the sky walk of the Grand Canyon, writer Garret Jon Groenveld shows us the view is metaphorically terrifying and exhilarating all at once. Beautifully written, the darkly comic play captures the paradigm facing couples as they enter a brand new chapter, without kids in the house. His snappy dialogue and relatable idiosyncratic quips had me wondering if he was eavesdropping on my personal conversations with my husband.
Our newly navigating empty nesters, Frances and Jack, are empathetically played by real-life married, empty nesters Pamela Walker and John Walker. First of all, BRAVO to these talented empty nesters who are back on stage doing something together they both clearly enjoy. John Walker masterfully manages to keep Jack tremendously likable, even through all his whining and complaining. His comedic timing is spot-on and while I was extremely happy that Jack was not my husband, I was also pulling for him to evolve into the man Frances needs moving forward. His cadence for comedy reminded me of John Maloney as Fraser’s cranky, but lovable dad. Pamela could easily have gone over the top with the “sad mom” angle, but she keeps the emotion just behind her piercing eyes as the shock of her finality as a mother sets in. Pamela’s sublime performance made me ache for her… as if all the things she has let slide in her marriage came to a crushing epiphany when she waved goodbye to her daughter. I wanted to shake her by the shoulders and let her know it’s all going to be okay. I wanted to tell her how much she will enjoy spending time with her friends, traveling, and taking on new hobbies. I wanted to tell her how much she will love having adult relationships with her children, now that she’s not enforcing curfews.
Director Richard Seyd guides us through the arch of this couple’s passage, showing us Frances and Jack’s ugliest warts along the way, but giving us hope in their commitment to one another and their future together. He steers away from the pitfalls of melodrama and keeps the pace moving. The use of the simple sets and 3D visual elements of the Grand Canyon added dimension to a little gem of a theatre in Los Angeles. This is why we support live theater! Raw human emotion, innovative set design to help our imagination paint the pictures, and a connection with the audience who resonate with the characters on stage.
As empty nesters ourselves, with a blog called EmptyNestersFly.com, I could never have imagined this chapter could be so fulfilling. My husband and I decided to live abroad for 2-3 months of the year and we actually made it happen! On our blog we explore cooking, traveling, dining and the ease of Italian living (and yes, just like Frances, I correct Bruce’s rolling R’s when he speaks Italian!). I had the blessing of watching my friends become empty nesters before me, and the ones who transitioned best started working on their new passions when their kids were still in high school. In their mid-fifties I have watched my friends become successful artists, first time writer/producers, join the board of directors for medical and philanthropic organizations, take up golf, volunteer in tutoring programs, create apparel brands, author novels, and so much more!
For ticket information for “The Empty Nesters” visit: www.EmptyNestersPlay.com or call 866-811-4111
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