The Healing Power of a Good Delay

by Nadine Bourne

Two former lovers run into each other by chance during their evening commute on a Metro North train. In this case, the imagined train will be parked on stage in Armonk’s Whippoorwill Theater; the lovers will be the subjects of Hudson Stage Company (HSC)’s upcoming production. After a year in the making, Off Peak is finally making its world debut with a premiere on April 22. 

During the play, its characters’ different views of the same past come into light. As a result, Off Peak explores themes of forgetting, forgiving and finding out about the healing power of a good delay.

It’s no secret that the theater industry has taken a toll during the pandemic. “We’ve been through so much these past couple of years,” says HSC Co-Founder Denise Bessette. So for its next mainstage play, Bessette and co-founder Olivia Sklar wanted to present a new production that was more than just a timely play. Bessette explains that they reviewed a lot of politically and socially relevant plays, but they “didn’t want to hammer the audience over the head.” 

“We wanted to offer something that had light and hope and substance.”  

They knew just what to do. Bessette and Sklar reached out to playwright Brenda Withers to create a new play with this concept of light and hope. 

Withers knew that this play would have two characters, and she had two actors in mind while writing: husband-wife duo Kurt Rhoads and Nance Williamson. The couple has starred together as lovers, siblings and rivals over the years. Off Peak will be their 68th play together. 

“Brenda Withers has written such great conversational dialogue,” Rhoads said. “In just a few readings, it feels very much like we’re just talking to each other.”

While the duo has been rehearsing at home, performing a play with someone you know quite well has its perks and challenges. Williamson says there is generally a familiarity and trust that happens when you’re working with people that you’ve worked with before. 

“That’s not to say that they can’t surprise you and do new things,” started Williamson. “But there’s a certain familiar chemistry that happens when you’re working with people that you know. I say that, because Kurt and I work together so much that marriage and working together are sort of graded. You know, it’s like a braid.”

As the cast and crew get ready for the premiere with Director Jess Chayes, Bessette says that it will be the last one for Hudson Stage Company before it closes for good. 

“I feel very, very, very sad. But I also accept that it’s time,” she explains. “I’d rather close on this note, where nobody is forcing us to shut down financially.”

Though Off Peak will only be running for a short time at HSC – from April 22 through May 7 – Bessette hopes there will be interest in this production beyond the world of HSC and that it continues to see success.

A version of this article first appeared in the April 2022 issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at

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