The Last Romance at New Theatre Restaurant
An evening at the theater does not get much better than New Theatre's "The Last Romance." Joe DiPietro's "The Last Romance" is a rare example of a charming, tiny, four-person comedy-drama that rises to be an extraordinary production through the talent force of its actors and the care of its director.
Last season's exceptional chemistry in "Driving Miss Daisy" between well-known and award winning television actors Michael Learned (Olivia Walton in "The Waltons") and Charlie Robinson (Mac in "Night Court) encouraged Director and New Theatre CEO Denis D. Hennessy to reunite these two super actors. I suspect Hennessy has a warm spot for "The Last Romance." The world premiere engagement of the play opened at New Theatre back in 2006 again directed by Denis D Hennessy.
It is a simple story. Ralph Taylor (Charlie Robinson) is a widowed, lonely, retired railroad worker who lives with his twenty-two year separated sister Rose (Marjorie Johnson). Rose and Ralph are all that remains of a large, observant Catholic family. Rose has made protecting and caring for her older brother her life's work. She moved in just after Ralph's wife Anna passed more than a decade ago. But sometimes Ralph needs a little space from all of Rose's intense caring.
Ralph is an amiable sort. He has lived a good and successful life except for one special dream not quite realized. As a young man, Ralph dreamed of being an opera singer. He even successfully auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera, but the call that welcomed him to the company somehow never reached him.
Ralph is in the habit of walking each morning, but this particular day Ralph alters his time schedule and his route to a quiet bench at a neighborhood dog park. He enjoys watching the dogs he would love to have owned frolic. He also spies an attractive older woman and her tiny dog.
Ralph attempts a conversation. Carol Reynolds (Michael Learned) is reticent to engage with Ralph, but he eventually wins her over. They become friends and meet daily for private, flirtatious talks. Each harbors a secret that is theirs alone.
They slowly learn much about each other. Carol is afraid to fly. Ralph shares his love of grand opera. Carol agrees to attend a local opera performance with Ralph. The relationship deepens much to Rose's concern.
As an avatar for the Young Ralph, Director Hennessy has cast the exceptional Orson Van Gay II. Young Ralph is a bridge between Ralph's youthful dreams and a future he aspires to. Van Gay II is one of the finest operatic tenors I have had the pleasure of hearing in very long time. He is a device used to connect scenes and to step seamlessly back into Ralph's imagination.
With a singer as skilled as Van Gay II, the device works wonderfully.
Carol surprises Ralph with his dream trip. They will travel to La Scala in Italy to hear Ralph's signature dream opera. Carol will overcome her fear of flying for Ralph, but will their individual secrets stand in the way?
To find out, you will need to see "The Last Romance" at New Theatre Restaurant. It is a production worth more than the price of dinner and a show with your best partner. This cast is absolutely worth seeing. This set by a Broadway designer is worth experiencing.
"The Last Romance" continues through November 17th. Tickets are available at https://newtheatre.com/upcoming-shows or by telephone at 913.649 Show.
Photos courtesy of New Theatre Restaurant