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Women of a Certain Age: Election Year in the Life of One Family, Play Three

Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Relevant, Great writing, Intelligent

About the show

Tony Award-winning playwright and director Richard Nelson returns to the Public Theater with the final chapter his new three-play cycle about the Gabriels of Rhinebeck, New York.

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Once again, we're back in the kitchen of the Gabriel family as they await the results of the presidential election on November 8, 2016. 'Women of a Certain Age' takes place in the course of a single night, eight months after we first met the clan. Patricia, the family matriarch, joins her children and daughters-in-law as they prepare a meal from the past and consider the future of their country, town, and home. Paying tribute to the difficult year behind them, the Gabriels compare notes on the search for empathy and authenticity at a time when the game seems rigged and the rules are forever changing.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews


“The final play in Richard Nelson's latest cycle, ‘The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family’ is aptly titled as it is devoted to the ladies of the family. ‘Women of a Certain Age’ is an extraordinarily elegiac and Shavian experience of the way we live now in middle-class America. Beginning with seemingly off-hand humor, the play eventually creates a spellbinding mood. You are in the arena of the kitchen alongside the members of the family.” Full Review

The Flip Side

"Leave it to Richard Nelson to write so elegantly about the most inelegant era in our country’s recent history...It all seems simple, even simplistic, in summary, but Nelson’s exquisitely detailed writing—his often funny and pointed dialogue takes mundanity to new heights of poetic realism—and deft directing are joined by the flawless performances to make this intimate but expansive play help in the healing that our divided nation will be needing." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Playwright/director Richard Nelson ends his masterly trilogy, 'The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family,' with 'Women of a Certain Age'...Nelson’s writing is skillful, insightful and steeped in heightened reality...The family—or, rather, the cast—is exceptional...Plunkett makes Mary so real and her problems so immediate that the actor and character seem the heart of 'The Gabriels'...The plays are not to be missed." Full Review


"These exquisitely intimate plays and these engaged audiences long ago began to feel like family, and 'Women of a Certain Age,' which left me in tears at the end, comforted me later on...As with Nelson’s model Chekhov, the big picture is in the details. It’s the accumulation of them in these mostly quiet moments that make 'Women of a Certain Age' so rich an exploration of identity...Nelson again is the masterful conductor of these amazing actors." Full Review

The New York Times

"The Gabriels are the tenderly wrought creations of the playwright Richard Nelson...As we listen to its members talk, even on trivial subjects like the decoration of cookies, we feel the far-reaching tremors of a scared country that has come down with a rattling case of identity crisis...Before you know it, this modest play has indirectly addressed matters both of the utmost immediate relevance—the election, the economy, the medical industry—and of cosmic implications." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"As the shadows draw in around the Gabriels, they remain remarkably gallant, and you want to cling to them for dear life. More than once, I was filled with sadness over the knowledge that this was the last time I would be seeing these characters and the superb ensemble playing them...Nelson, who also directed, has done a valuable thing with the Gabriel plays...The darkness threatens us all, and we must find a way to make common cause or the future will be bleak." Full Review


"A play that deals with election results cannot help but resonate differently with audiences before votes are tallied and after...The blending of the play's world so intimately with our own makes for vitally naturalistic theater. Naturalism has always been the specialty of Nelson's play cycles, which he directs with great subtlety...It's a shame to say goodbye to characters who so expertly capture our anxieties, as well as to the magnificent actors who take on these roles with full devotion." Full Review


“The company that has been with the plays all year remains the rare ensemble with no membrane between performance and what feels like intimate reality...Nelson’s goal, as expressed in the program, was to 'portray a world where the personal, the cultural, the societal, the familial, the artistic, the political are viewed not as separate categories, but as dependent aspects of each of our lives.' He does all that, and more." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"'The Gabriels' is everything the next president is not: thoughtful, meditative, hesitant, self-critical and, above all else, quiet. Nelson and his inspired cast have turned the story of one beleaguered family into an arresting parable of decline in educated middle-class America...Nelson’s work seems more vital than ever. And yet this kind of political theatre is preaching to the converted. What difference can it make?" Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"It's Nelson's greatest strength as playwright and director here that he relegates politics mostly to the background; it's oddly secondary that this is at once the most and least momentous installment in the series with nothing and everything happening simultaneously, and at a dizzying pace. Every moment is flooded with meaning...More than ever, it's the acting that sells it. Everyone is superb." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"It's an interlude 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...Although the Gabriel plays are inextricably political, they are also profoundly human and personal. Not one character on the stage feels inessential to the drama and not a single actor fails to bring a lifetime of intimate knowledge to his or her fully inhabited portrayal." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"The cast are all completely marvelous. And in this final installment, they are only more engrained into their characters. They make being in the presence of this family feel authentic, comfortable, and easy…It’s a beautiful structure for us to peek into the world of a troubled but real family, and listen in. To get to know them, witness them, and ultimately become enmeshed into their lives emotionally." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"Their conversation ranges far and wide, from vintage cookbooks to gentrification to outside money’s influence on local politics...The Gabriels do not yet know the election results, but their future does not look bright regardless of the outcome...Anyone who has not seen at least the middle play of the trilogy may not get a lot out of this one. The ensemble cast is outstanding." Full Review

The Clyde Fitch Report

"Nelson beautifully illustrates how one particular American family stratum lives in our day and age...The irresistible thing about the Gabriels is how widely their conversation ranges...The Trump-Clinton presidential contest is one of the topics raised...If there’s one element in Nelson’s surpassing work that doesn’t entirely compute, it’s ironically the time spent on such topics...Nonetheless, Nelson’s accomplishment as a playwright is matched by his accomplishment as a director." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"'Women of a Certain Age' is highly relevant in today’s day and age…For the first time in the Gabriel plays, Nelson’s writing shows an elegance as real issues are discussed. Healthcare, jobs, education, gender, gentrification and lack of income weave their way into the conversation. The cast is all sublime and so real." Full Review


"The playwright’s own intensely personal direction, at Off Broadway’s Public Theater, is brilliantly sustained by a tight ensemble of actors who have been with the project since the beginning...Mary Gabriel, Thomas’s third wife and now widow, quietly rules this roost, as does the sublime actress Maryann Plunkett, who steps back into the role she now owns...Cast in Nelson’s ultra-naturalistic style, the voices are measured, thoughtful, comfortable — and comforting." Full Review

New York Daily News

"The final chapter in writer and director Richard Nelson’s trilogy leaves the titular family where we met them — in angst-riddled limbo...Everyone in the family, played by the finest ensemble in town, hopes for something brighter. Knowing the results of the race for the White House deepens the play’s dark streaks." Full Review


"This final play continues to be timely. The situation now is a reflection of middle-class Americans caught up in events that made this election so contentious and its aftermath so problematic...Nelson is a very good writer and 'Women of A Certain Age' has tapped into his gift for finely observed and developed characters. He's also that rare playwright who is a good director who knows how to move his actors around naturally and gracefully." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Even if it weren’t so despairing about some of the largest issues we face today, the astonishingly full and fine-grained performances of the six-person cast, under Nelson’s direction, are almost too much to handle...Despite that drollness, and the frequent laughs, the tone of 'Women of a Certain Age' is not only grimmer but angrier...Already, watching the play, I felt that the anarchic spirit of Trumpism had somewhat overwhelmed Nelson’s playwriting levees." Full Review


"You feel for the Gabriels – the play is notably well-acted – but their rather passive reaction to their woes is a bit annoying...All three plays, directed by Nelson, follow the same narrow path. They’re similarly staged, with the family chatting as they sit around the kitchen table preparing a meal, and all chart an unrelieved downward course. Maybe they’re a more fitting dramatic counterpart to the election than Nelson suspected they’d be." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"Most of the time I listened with impatience to this supposedly socially engaged family...I left feeling that the promise and process in which the plays were put together wound up at best a gimmick to market them. This is unfortunate because, if it weren’t taking place (and being written) on Election Day, I could better appreciate 'Women of a Certain Age' as a well-acted, gentle and insightful look at a family facing many struggles, emotionally and financially." Full Review

Front Row Center

"Last Tuesday–Election Night–night was excruciating. The Gabriel plays are merely frustrating...The saving grace is the two performances put in by Sanders and Maxwell. These two have a connection that is pure gold, and it becomes the center of the evening. The other three are planets in orbit giving vague representations of their characters. Each seems to be waiting for someone to stop speaking so that they can say their lines. An altogether underwhelming effect." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Certain notes of hubris in the project, like much self-referential preening about art, were already jarring on election night. Imagine them now. Some people find reassurance in the cast’s palpable warmth; some find Nelson’s Chekhovian languor a balm. But I’m troubled at how 'The Gabriels' assumes a sameness; it’s nearly two hours of self-perpetuating agreement...It’s relentlessly plaintive and, we now know, utterly beside the point." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Resonant, Great writing

See it if even if you haven't seen the other Gabriel plays. Stands alone well. Very timely. Good ensemble.

Don't see it if You want big flashy or explosive

Clever, Great acting, Refreshing, Relevant, Slow

See it if you like simple setting and a look into a family sitting around a kitchen reminiscing and talking of politics

Don't see it if you don't like political discussions and want fast paced entertainment

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Great writing

See it if You like small finely wrought gems in which kitchen table story telling opens up worlds of art, history, politics, personal and universal.

Don't see it if You don't like plays in which small matters with large implications are discussed in conversational tones forcing you to actively listen .

Also I saw the "Gabriel"trilogy in a marathon today. Feel as if I've lived ... Read more Read less

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Moving

See it if you saw the first two plays or are interested in seeing something written up until the last minute of Election Night 2016.

Don't see it if you're uninterested in political plays. See this if you're trying to comprehend the election.

Also This play was my favorite of the three. It was touching and a little h... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Intense, Relevant

See it if You love a day in the theater watching three great plays with wonderful writing,staging and acting. Doesn't get better than this!

Don't see it if You think..." I have enough problems in my own family. I don't want to care about any others." But you'd be making a mistake.

Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing

See it if you would enjoy an intelligent contemporary play with a mix of current events and family drama and comedy.

Don't see it if you didn't like the Apple Family plays.

Clever, Great acting, Profound, Great writing, Touching

See it if you enjoy kitchensink dramas; the trilogy is a great example. I preferred the 3 plays to Chekhov; the issues are relevant, the humanity deep

Don't see it if you want a happy ending. Life can be brutal. I didn't like the misguided seance talk, but otherwise all 3 boast outstanding writing.

Also Bravo (mostly brava!) to the actors for the impressive feat of present... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You like simple settings with real peoples lives brought to life by an amazing ensemble

Don't see it if You prefer grand story lines. Action. Or song and dance. This is simple drama. Straight forward

Banal, Slow

See it if You saw the first two of the trilogy. This one resolves and give significantly more rewarding moments. You have to like the cast.

Don't see it if You like things to happen. These shows are exceedingly quotidian, which is not a bad thing, but more resulting insight would help.

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Resonant, Great writing

See it if you want to be a part of an intelligent conversation. All great performances that make you feel deeply.

Don't see it if you want extravaganza and escape. The first play rang true, the second hit hard, the third broke my heart.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You enjoy thoughtful, intelligent works. This is an amazingly realist drama. You can literally smell the food cooking throughout the play!

Don't see it if You don't like intimate dramas (with humor). Best if seen after the two previous plays in the trilogy although this could stand alone.

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Resonant, Surprisingly moving

See it if you enjoy watching actors truly inhabit their characters; if you like meticulously crafted dialogue (& lots of it); if you want to be moved

Don't see it if you need action-packed drama; if you can't bear the idea of being (invisibly) dropped into another (very chatty) family's dinner preparation

Enchanting, Exquisite, Great acting, Resonant, Great writing

See it if you like plays that have a quiet beauty. This play says so much without ever saying anything directly. It's an incredible peak at ourselves.

Don't see it if you can't appreciate nuance or if you don't like sentiment. This is a beautiful portrait of a slice of real life.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you've seen the other two plays in the Gabriel Family cycle, enjoy understated but terrific acting, like literate takes on current issues

Don't see it if a family's quiet but interesting conversations would bore you, you don't like slice of life realism, don't want to reflect on modern issues

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant, Great writing

See it if You are a fan of the Gabriel family series and need closure; to watch masterful actors follow everyday life during uncertain times.

Don't see it if You need fast action, costumes, sound effects; Have no idea who the Gabriel family is and dislike too much quiet conversation in a play.

Relevant, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if You have come to know and love the Gabriel family and want to know what is new in their lives. If you enjoy family conversations

Don't see it if you need drama, action or a real story.

Pointless, Great acting, Banal, Cliched, Slow

See it if you are a completionist and must see all 3 parts of this trilogy. Well acted. You relate to severely passionless family interactions.

Don't see it if it feels myopic & aimless. Characters go through the same life transition at the same time in the same way. Not microcosm but a microscope.

Also Dialogues many times feel contrived and unrealistic. ... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant, Slow

See it if you saw the first 2 installments in the trilogy, even if you were disappointed in them -- this one is by far the best of the 3.

Don't see it if you didn't see the previous entries -- on its own the play is just ok. but as a resolution to the previous installments it does a fine job.

Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Great staging, Intimate

See it if you enjoy great ensemble acting; family dynamics, though not of the dysfunctional kind; you like intimate settings

Don't see it if you crave lots of physical action on stage; you enjoy occasional fits of loud talking, yelling and debating - this show is spoken quietly.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Masterful, Relevant

See it if You appreciate nuanced theater that helps you understand people better

Don't see it if You like a lot of action or a clear resolution.

Boring, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow, Dull

See it if You would enjoy being a fly on the wall of typical family conversations, that aren't necessarily all that interesting.

Don't see it if You dislike slow shows or need strong story, action, or conflict. It moves along at a snails pace & not a lot happens.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Great writing

See it if you want an intimate look at a family with timely economic, social, political issues told in a slow pace with quiet, realistic dialogue

Don't see it if you want an action play or a cheery one; you want no mention of politics (but with its great characters this is mostly about a family coping

Also Helpful although not necessary to have seen the other plays in the tri... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Hyper-realistic

See it if You like realistic dialog and characters, which reflect what's going on in our lives today. Nelson has developed his own brand of realism.

Don't see it if You don't use a hearing device. Unfortunately Nelson equates a conversational level of speaking with naturalism, a big mistake as his first

Also Concern should be with allowing us to hear his dialog!

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great staging

See it if you want to how the ordinary problems of one family are a microcosm of the state of the nation. Also if you enjoy superb ensemble acting.

Don't see it if you like a linear plot and lots of action or if you have not seen at least the second play of this trilogy,

Also A fitting conclusion to an engrossing trilogy.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You're not looking for action or "something to happen" intelligent understated look at a family and a country living in uncertain times.

Don't see it if You're looking for action, edge of your seat drama.

Cast & Creatives (14)