Tear ducts open as senior citizens find friendship on a New Jersey Park Bench
By Tom Jones, October 19, 2014
“The Last Romance” Creede Repertory Charmer on stage at Arvada Center
Hoboken, New Jersey is on the banks of the Hudson River overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Ralph Bellini, an 80-year-old widower, has recently recovered from a stroke, and has gone to a park to relax, and possibly to make some human contact with persons who are walking their dogs. He lives nearby with his sister, Rose, who has been taking care of him for several years. Her husband left her for another woman 22 years ago, but she refuses to divorce him, with the naive hope that he will someday return to her.
An aging woman, Carol, brings her dog to the park and catches the eye of the lonely Ralph. He comes-on to Carol somewhat too strong, with her initially rejecting his friendship. Ralph backtracks a little, relaxes, and begins to become less threatening. Little by little the two become friends, despite the hold that Ralph’s sister has over him. Carol and Ralph are both suffering from acute loneliness, desiring even the touch of someone’s hand.
Playwright Joe DiPetro has effectively handled personal relationships for many years! My wife and I first became acquainted with his work in New York in 1996, seeing his vignettes of relationships in the enormously satisfying “I love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” That show ran Off-Broadway for more than 5,000 performances. He moved to Broadway in 2005 with the Elvis Presley jukebox musical “All Shook Up.” More recently he and David Bryan received the 2010 Tony Award for writing the Best Musical, “Memphis.”
He wrote “The Last Romance” in 2008, and the show has found audiences throughout the country. The highly honored Creede Repertory Theatre (CRT) in southern Colorado produced the show this past summer – the show that has transferred to the stage in the Arvada Center’s Black Box Theater for a limited run.
The show is directed by Christy Montour-Larson who has directed over 75 productions from Shakespeare to Pinter to musicals.
Performing in the CRT production on the Arvada Stage are Christy Brandt as Carol, John S. Green as Ralph, Anne F. Butler as Rose, and Sean Thompson as the opera singer who brings enormous class to the entire production! Could he be Ralph as a young man? Each is very good. Brandt brings a feeling of uneasy confidence. Green is the sometimes oafish good man who longed to sing in the Metropolitan Opera when he was younger. Anne F. Butler, a very attractive woman, isn’t afraid to show a completely dowdy side, as the sister clinging to Ralph while waiting for her husband to return. Sean Thompson is in very good voice, providing bits of operatic splendor. Brandt, Butler, and Green have incredible performing credits, especially with roles in CRT productions. Brandt, for example, has appeared in over 120 plays at CRT!
“Romance” is a romantic comedy about love, loneliness and fear of commitment in the golden years. There are some surprises. There isn’t complete closure or anyone, but the audience is left with the idea that hope springs eternal. The production struck a chord with many in the audience, as Carol, Ralph and Rose try to come to terms with their personal situations.
“The Last Romance”
Tuesday through Saturday through October 26, 2014
Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO
For information go to www.arvadacenter.org or call 720-898-7200