Sunday, May 3, 2015

Theater Review: The Last Romance -- Ivoryton

Rochelle Slovin and Chet Carlin. Photo: Anne Hudson
Last Chance at Love is Not Just a Walk in the Park
By Lauren Yarger
When an 80-year-old man spots an attractive older woman at the local dog park, can the spark of romance be ignited in their lives, or is love just a dying ember?

Joe DiPietro’s funny and moving play The Last Romance gets a satisfying run at Ivoryton Playhouse, where the Tony-Award-winning playwright is a favorite: I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change and All Shook Up were both popular successes there and the musical Memphis, will play the Ivoryton stage in August.

For Ralph Bellini (a perfect Chet Carlin) it’s love at first sight when he sees beautiful Carol Reynolds (Rochelle Slovin who looks fabulous for her 70+ years) with her little Chihuahua mix, Peaches (Roxy, the understudy for “Bruiser” on the national tour of Legally Blonde owned by William Berloni and handled by Theresa Stark). The widower contrives to meet her at the dog park and tries to woo her with tails of his long-ago audition for the Metropolitan Opera. (The Hartt School’s Stephen Mir plays Ralph’s younger self in the octogenarian’s mind and in flashbacks, where he sings parts of great operas.)

Carol is reluctant at first, but soon is won over by Ralph’s charm. His controlling sister, Rose (Kate Konigisor) doesn’t think the romance is a good idea, however, and fears she won’t have a place in his life any more if he gets involved with Carol. Rose has been taking care of her brother (and controlling his life) since moving in after he had a memory lapse and was found wandering. Now, she keeps tabs on his every moment  --  it’s no wonder her estranged husband of 22 years left her for another woman. Adding to Rose’s angst is recent communication that her husband wants to divorce.

Carol plans to take Ralph to the famed  La Scala opera house in Italy – a place he and his late wife dreamed of visiting – but Rose might throw a wrench in the plan. Will the couple be able to enjoy what both know is the last romance they ever will experience?

DiPietro gives us layered characters (excellently directed by Maggie McGlone Jennings). Carlin’s engaging personality instantly wins us over. He gives a top-notch performance as Chet struggles with mortality, unexpected feelings and responsibility toward his sister. Konigisor (the artistic director of Shakespeare with Benefits) isn’t afraid to show off her character’s offensive side – “Shuuuuut uuuuup,” she yells at the dogs in the park – but also brings out Rose’s vulnerability. Slovin, returning to the stage after 30 years as founding director of the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, is a bit stiff.

William Russell Stark designs the dog park, flanked on either side by sets for smaller scenes. Costume Designer Vickie Blake has Carol very elegantly dressed for a trip to the park.

The show comes together well with fully developed characters, the beautiful opera singing and DiPeitro’s humor woven throughout the moving story.

The Last Romance plays at Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., through May 10. Performances are Wednesday and Sunday at 2 pm; Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. Tickets: $42 for adults, $37 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children. (860) 767-7318;

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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