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The Last Romance - An Atlanta Premiere
a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by Joe DiPietro

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 4110

SHOWING : September 23, 2011 - October 16, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

From the Tony Award winning playwright of Over the River and Through the Woods, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Memphis comes a heartwarming boy-meets-girl comedy with one unique difference, the boy and girl are senior citizens! Ralph, a widower, unexpectedly finds love again with Carol, an attractive woman who never expected another chance at love. This touching, romantic comedy proves it is never too late to follow your heart.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Justin Anderson
Music Direction Linda Uzelac
Costume Design Jim Alford
Sound Design Dan Bauman
Scenic Design Chuck Welcome
Lighting Design John David Williams
Rose Tagliatelle Pat Bell
Young Man Stephen McCool
Ralph Bellini Frank Roberts
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Guilt-Free Confection
by Dedalus
Monday, November 7, 2011
4.5
Joe DiPietro’s “The Last Romance,” recently mounted by Dunwoody’s Stage Door Players, is a most deceiving confection. For the most part, it is a sweet, almost forgettable romantic comedy – senior citizens find romance and realize that no one ever really masters love’s pitfalls and blind spots. Mr. DiPietro himself has attacked this before in “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” (“I Can Live With That”).

But, as I sit here two weeks after the show has closed, still procrastinating writing about it, I find it has lingered far and beyond the “memory-span” of most light-weight theatre pieces. What I remember aren’t the jokes and smiles and warm-fuzzies. What I remember are the choices faced by the characters, the conflict that arises when the heart and the conscience part ways, the different ways different characters deal with this conflict. This is indeed good and nourishing stuff, and it elevates the play higher than I would have originally judged. It is, in effect, dessert with more nutrition than calories.

Ralph is a retired widower, living with his sister Rose. He has been “hanging out” at a local dog park, hoping to “meet” Carol, an attractive woman with a runt-rat of a dog. Okay, he’s “stalking” her in a clumsy (and essentially harmless) way. When they finally meet, they rush into a friendship that turns into a date that turns into a relationship. In the meantime, Rose (separated from her own husband for a few decades) is feeling not a little threatened. Add to the mix a young man whose beautiful operatic tenor recalls Ralph’s youthful ambitions and lost opportunities, and you have a recipe for a whimsical and softly appealing romance.

The conflict comes when we learn Carol is still married, although her husband has been in a coma for years. And we learn that Rose’s husband finally wants a divorce, so his dying mistress can have the solace of a last-chance wedding. Since all are staunchly Catholic, someone will end up disappointed. Again.

I really like the idea that it’s not evil that can drive the temptations to skirt those absolutes that fortify our consciences, but affection, kindness, even love. Carol is willing to have a relationship with Ralph, even while caring for her husband. Rose owes nothing to that “whore” who stole her husband, especially if it means breaking a sacred marriage vow (a marriage twenty years dead). And Ralph seems to get it all – a chance at a “Last Romance” and a chance to visit La Scala to hear opera at its finest. But is it worth it if it means doing it with a married woman? Do any of them even have enough time to “wait” until circumstances align with the dictates of the church?

If this sounds like serious stuff, it is. But it’s buried deep in the heart of a comedy, a romance that warms the heart as it makes us smile, even laugh. Frank Roberts’ Ralph is over-bearing, loud and endearing. Joanna Daniel brings a sweetness and edge to Carol that makes her appeal to Ralph not only understandable, but inevitable. And, in a brilliantly funny performance, Pat Bell makes Rose a cranky care-giver, a woman who knows all of Ralph’s foibles but loves him anyway, a seemingly inflexibly faithful parishioner, who may end up bending more than anyone else. And Stephen McCool’s “Young Man” is sweet voiced and pleasant, showing us what Ralph was like when all roads still lay before him.

Director Justin T. Anderson, Set Designer Chuck Welcome, Lighting Designer John David Williams, Sound Designer Dan Bauman, and Music Director Linda Uzelac have contributed the usual Stage Door glister, creating a playing space that transforms from park to living area with a shift of furniture, an adjustment of light, a splash of sound, another aria to mask the change. This is (or, I should say, was) a beautiful looking, beautiful sounding production that served the story quite well, indeed.

You’ve missed your last chance to see “The Last Romance,” but it’s a play to look for in the future (Mr. DiPietro’s work seems to pop up with welcome frequency at area theatres). It serves up a pleasant and delectable confection of a romance that hits the mind and memory like a vitamin-enriched energy bar. Don’t be deceived by its patina of sweetness and light – it asks important questions and it comes up with no easy answers. To my mind, that’s a meal worth remembering.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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A Slight Romance
by playgoer
Friday, October 7, 2011
3.5
Joe DiPietro's "The Last Romance" is being given a lovely production at Stage Door Players. The set, by Chuck Welcome, is the corner of a city dog park in Hoboken, New Jersey, with brick walls framing a railing and stairs, a simple park bench center stage. The bench moves and projections of a window are projected on the backing scrim to suggest a couple of interior scenes. It's simple and lovely and effective.

Costumes, by Jim Alford, are also quite nice. They delineate the four characters ably, with quite distinct costume plots for each. The wealthy Carol has elegant clothes; working class Rose has jeans; young and old Ralph aim for sophistication at times, but their limited budgets are shy of the effect they intend to portray. Once again, it's quite effective.

Lights, by John David Williams, and sound, by Dan Bauman, add to the effectiveness. The music direction and backing tracks by Linda Uzelac are wondrous. Stephen McCool, as the Young Man, has a terrific operatic baritone, and his ariettas between scenes add to the overall effect.

Performances are very good across the board. Pat Bell (Rose) has a no-nonsense quality that gently softens over the course of the play. Frank Roberts (Ralph) has energy and verve, while still suggesting age. Joanna Daniel (Carol) melds elegance with slowly dissolving reserve. Even Chica (playing chihuahua mix Peaches) adds to the play without any of the scene stealing that is so often done by animals and children.

The play itself, however, doesn't have a lot of substance. It's a sweet, small story that takes a while to build up in act one before leading to a bittersweet conclusion in act two. The plot isn't totally predictable (and in fact could use just a touch more foreshadowing), but it's not very surprising in its plot choices either. This is a slight, quiet play, autumnal in tone, totally in keeping with the autumn leaves that cover the tree limbs above the playing area. "The Last Romance" seems targeted at the largely older season ticket audience of Stage Door Players, but it's not a show that is likely to stick long in the memory. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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