Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Regional Reviews by Zander Opper
The Last Romance
As these two actors enact this possible "last romance," it is truly a thing of wonder, both in watching such skilled performers at work and in seeing how these two people try to make a connection that could drastically change their lives. With fine support by Kate Konigisor and Stephen Mir, The Last Romance goes from grand opera to a cute onstage dog as it spins its tale of the chance of love happening later in life. And while it is a somewhat slender play, it still proves to be a real pleasure and can certainly be recommended.
One of the privileges of this production is seeing such talented actors onstage. Chet Carlin brings a sly wit to the character of Ralph, as well as a vulnerable generosity of spirit. A masterstroke by the playwright is that he shows the audience Ralph as he was as a young man, played by the handsome and rich-voiced Stephen Mir.
In his youth, Ralph auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera, but, because of various misconnections, never succeed as an opera singer. Having Stephen Mir serenade the audience with arias from grand opera in between scenes adds a richness to the play. And the moments when both actors playing Ralph stand and speak together, with Stephen Mir representing the promise of what could be and Chet Carlin showing what has become of him, can be heart-stopping.
These moments only enhance the main story of how Ralph meets and attempts to romance the initially hesitant Carol, played by the lovely Rochelle Slovin. I would be loathe to give away what ultimately happens between these two characters, but there is a real joy in watching such experienced performers together onstage. Rochelle Slovin imbues her role with both a hard exterior and also a tenderness that can take your breath away. Chet Carlin matches her multi-faceted performance with a portrayal of a man slowly opening himself up to a happiness that could have passed him by. If nothing else, The Last Romance does a good job of exploring the story of a pair of lovers, both in the twilight of their lives, and dramatizing it with such warmth.
Still, there is much more to The Last Romance, including Ralph's sister Rose, played by the amusing Kate Konigisor, who earns the biggest laughs in the play. Against a beautiful set by William Russell Stark, the production follows the romance between Ralph and Carol, then, whenever things start to feel little thin, the rich performances and director Maggie McGlone Jennings's expertise add depth and pleasure. The Last Romance, by Joe DiPietro, is the perfect play for a lovely evening out and, considering its small cast, should be a natural for regional theatres everywhere.
The Last Romance continues performances at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, CT through May 10, 2015. For tickets, please visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call the box office at (860) 767-7318.