BWW Review: THE LAST ROMANCE at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre
The first live show I have seen in 2018 has been a wonderful start to a promising new year of theatrical performances at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre, in Berlin, CT. THE LAST ROMANCE is a romantic comedy written by Joe DiPietro, directed by Kris McMurray, and starring four incredibly talented cast members, three of whom are human.
The story is set in a dog park, during a time of year that is definitely warmer than Connecticut is, right now. The set depicting the dog park, combined with the pleasant temperature inside the theatre helps make the audience feel present in the show, as we temporarily forget about the cold weather outside.
Sound effects are well placed, including barking dogs and opera singing, both of which enhance the power of the scenes, when they appear.
The story starts with Ralph, a lively, blunt, and highly likeable eighty year old man, waiting on a bench in a dog park, despite the fact that he doesn't own a dog. Actor George Lombardo brings Ralph to life in a way that sells every line he delivers throughout the entire show.
Actress Lori Feldman makes her Connecticut Cabaret Theatre stage debut, taking the stage by storm, in her phenomenal portrayal of Rose, a domineering loudmouthed Italian who is neither shy nor subtle about her insistence that George returns home for dinner, in a timely manner. Lori Feldman's facial expressions are priceless when she tells the barking dogs to "shut up," indicating extreme outrage at the audacity of those dogs to be barking in her presence. Her gestures while speaking combine with her New York attitude to make this comical character totally believable. The audience was so marveled by Lori Feldman's stellar performance in the opening scene, that you could feel and hear the audience's excitement in the following scenes, right from the moments we can see that she is about to make another entrance.
The dynamics between Ralph and Rose are very clear from the start, Ralph feeling unjustly nagged by Rose, while Rose feels like she is properly looking out for Ralph's best interests. George Lombardo and Lori Feldman have strong stage chemistry, making the audience feel the tension between the two characters. The actual relationship between Ralph and Rose is deliberately kept unclear, initially, to enhance the suspense and complexity of who Ralph actually is, and whether his intentions are honorable.
After Rose gives Ralph a specific timed deadline of when he is expected to leave the park and come home for dinner, Rose leaves the park. It is then that Carol enters the park, and we gain an understanding of why Ralph was waiting in the dog park, despite not having a dog. Unbeknownst to Carol, Ralph was anticipating her arrival in the dog park, having previously seen her there. Before he speaks his first word to Carol, Ralph already has taken romantic interest in her. Carol is not initially very receptive of Ralph's attempt to pick her up. Actress Barbara Horan delivers another excellent performance, as Carol, whose initial reactions to Ralph are very understandable. Carol had seen Rose in the park, earlier, with Ralph, and assumed that Ralph and Rose were husband and wife. To Carol, Ralph denies this, initially saying that he and Rose are merely living together, but then further claiming that he and Rose are brother and sister, a claim that leaves audience members skeptical as to Ralph's honesty, especially being that Ralph had made the dishonest claim to Carol that he was the owner of one of the dogs in the park. The dynamics between Ralph and Carol, and the dynamics between Carol and Rose all reflect excellent stage chemistry between a cast who truly enjoy playing their roles.
The potential romance developing between Ralph and Carol, and the obstacles to that romance, including Rose, become the central storyline of this well written, well directed, and well performed show.
The fourth cast member is Molly, a real poodle who portrays Carol's dog, Peaches. Molly has excellent stage presence, is cooperative with the other cast members, obediently performs her role, and gives the audience yet another great reason to enjoy this show.
There is another character named Tony, who does not appear, but is merely spoken about. Tony's words written in a letter show that he does not understand, discern, or accept the difference between unchangeable Catholic capital T Traditions (doctrines) like the indissolubility of marriage, and the changeable Catholic lowercase t traditions (disciplines) like abstaining from eating meat on Fridays. Tony's lack of understanding or acceptance of these differences leads to further complications regarding Rose's character and a major decision Rose is confronted with.
What is the actual relationship between Ralph and Rose? How, if at all, does Carol become a threat to their relationship? To what extreme is Ralph willing to go for romance? What is Carol's marital status? What major decision must Rose make? Does Peaches become reunited with a dog named Herb? Come see the show to find out! You will have a great time, going through a gamut of emotions as the show contains comedy, romance, and drama, with happy moments, and sad moments, humorous moments, and serious moments, all brilliantly depicted, making the audience not just see and hear, but feel, as well.
I highly recommend THE LAST ROMANCE, which is scheduled to run every Friday and Saturday night at 8:00 through February 3, 2018. With Lori Feldman already slated to appear in at least two other Connecticut Cabaret Theatre productions, and with THE LAST ROMANCE as the first new show of the calendar year, the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre shows tremendous promise of continuing with the consistency of top quality productions that I enjoyed experiencing during 2017. For tickets, please go to http://ctcabaret.com/.