Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
The Last Romance
Florida Studio Theatre
Florida Studio Theatre is presenting Joe DiPietro's The Last Romance at The Gompertz Theater, in a production which is most enjoyable as a chance to see Sarasota favorite David S. Howard once more. Howard is beloved for 20 seasons worth of wonderful work at Asolo Repertory Theater. Here he plays elderly widow Ralph Bellini, who one day throws all caution to the wind and takes his morning constitutional walk in the park in the afternoon, and takes a different route to boot! He spies attractive Carol, played by Barbara Broughton, and returns another day in hopes of striking up a conversation, thereby meeting her. The initial encounter is not everything one could hope for, as Carol misunderstands Ralph's teasing manner and he comes on too strong. Eventually, rough edges smooth out for the two, but their lives are complicated by outside factors, he by a dominating sister, she by other issues. There is one more character, known only as the young man, who is a ghost-like representative of a much younger Ralph.
David S. Howard and Barbara Broughton
The characters of Ralph and Carol come across as stereotypical, not the strong individual personalties we might like to encounter, which is a fault with DiPietro's script. The central conflict of older man, with bossy caretaking sister, attempting a romance with a woman with mystery in her past reminded me a great deal of the central relationship in my very favorite musical, The Most Happy Fella, except that the musical has the incredible musical score by Frank Loesser to carry the emotions. The genial warmth brought by Howard and Broughton help this production a great deal. Marina Re as Rose is also effective in fleshing out her character, and the singing of Dane Reese as the young, opera singing Ralph is enjoyable.
All of the technical elements blend well to enhance the overall enjoyment of the audience.
Florida Studio Theatre presents The Last Romance through February 12, 2012, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at (941) 366-9000 or visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org.
David S. Howard as Ralph
Barbara Broughton as Carol
Marina Re as Rose
Dane Reese as The Young Man
Director: Russell Treyz
Scenic Designer: April Soroko
Costume Designer: April Soroko
Lighting Designer: Robert Perry
Stage Manager: Garry Allan Breul
Photo: Maria Lyle
Be sure to Check the current schedule for theatre in West Coast Florida
See the current season schedule for West Coast Florida
--William S. Oser