Portland Stage is kicking off its fall season with A.R. Gurney’s “Later Life,” a story about a man and a woman in the autumn of their lives.

Directed by Cecil MacKinnon, the one-act play offers a witty view of life’s golden years as a metaphorical cocktail party, filled with second chances, intermingled with a revolving door of colorful characters.

Austin (John Hadden) and Ruth (Rae C. Wright) first met overseas when they were in their 20s. The chance encounter was full of possibility but, at the time, not meant to be. Now in their 60s, the two meet again at a party in Boston, overlooking Boston Harbor. Austin is a successful banker and divorced father of two. Ruth is separated from husband No. 4.

Are the two fated to be together, and will they be brave enough to seize the opportunity that they let slip away 40-something years ago?

Artistic director Anita Stewart has crafted a charming backdrop for the play’s star-crossed lovers. An expanse of blue water stretches from the condo terrace to the iconic city skyline with a sailboat whimsically sailing back and forth. A string of white lights romantically twinkles on the terrace as twilight sets in.

Hadden and Wright are well cast as Austin and Ruth, offering a playful trepidation as their characters rediscover each other. Hadden offers up a character who is the consummate Bostonian gentleman, and Wright’s Ruth is a spicy wild card. As the pair become reacquainted, a series of party guests meander out onto the quiet terrace from the boisterous party. Each is a later life stereotype, providing both societal commentary and the play’s biggest smile-worthy moments.


Ron Botting and Kate Udall are amazing to watch as they slip into the various roles of the other party guests, becoming almost unrecognizable as they don the colorful personalities.

Botting’s roles include an “existential smoker” named Jimmy, an arthritic retiree named Roy and a computer nerd named Dwayne. The audience chuckled Friday as Botting’s Jimmy ranted about the virtues of cigarettes — “a gesture of freedom in an absurd universe.”

Memorable roles from Udall included Roy’s wife, who is reluctant to move from Boston to Florida (“He’s moving me from Athens to Sparta”), and an eccentric woman who amusingly reminds Austin and Ruth that “Even if the main course is somewhat disappointing, there is always dessert.”

Portland Stage’s “Later Life” is an entertaining play that makes the viewer question what “later life” means, now that we are living longer. After all, Gurney didn’t begin his successful career as a playwright until age 51.

As we age, many of us wonder what might have been. Like a cocktail party, life is full of surprises, if we only have the courage to recognize and act on the possibilities.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:


Twitter: @ahboyle

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