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The Last Romance

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The thing about The Last Romance, currently enjoying its delight-filled West Coast premiere at The Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, is that it makes you want to shout, "Yahoo! Finally!"

Well, maybe that shouting is loudest among those of us who:

  • Have not worn low-rise jeans for at least two decades for fear the muffin-top would explode
  • Rejoice that Elder Hostel's (now Exploritas) travel catalogue includes more mountain biking, river rafting and ocean kayaking than museum lectures and that it is no longer called "Elder" anything
  • Remember when there were no blue M&M's
  • Learned to type on a thing cleverly called a typewriter
  • After seeing the film, "The Bucket List," resolved to whittle away at our own, but keep adding to it
  • Refuse to wear panty hose or Speedos

In other words, can you say "Baby Boomers"? Yep, those of us born during Truman and Eisenhower's presidencies have been longing (perhaps subconsciously) for a romantic comedy that does not take us back to the halcyon daze of college frat parties or entry-level office jobs, but instead gives us something to look forward to in our dotage. "What about a lovely happy romantic fairy tale for us?" We have wailed. "We are not love-dead! Playwrights, pay attention!"

Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro heard our cries and created a marvelous, uplifting but not sappy, starry-eyed but not dreamy, funny, tender, amorous, intelligent and thoughtful play about finding love in life's autumn. Never mind that he wrote it for the starring long-time couple Marion Ross and Paul Michael, whose real-life attraction for each other sizzles and sighs on stage. We can all relate to both the possibilities and the fears in this most welcome of love fables.

Perceptively directed by Richard Seer, and nicely showcased by Alexander Dodge's leaves and sheaves round stage set, this play focuses on later-life characters, but its dual themes of longing for love and dreading aloneness are ageless.

The story is about Ralph, an 80-something widower, who, yearning for the intimacy and comfort that only a love affair can offer, pursues Carol, an attractive woman of equal maturity. In a charming twist of locale, Ralph finds Carol in a tiny Hoboken dog park. Dressed in upscale office attire and high heels, she comes there daily, toting her Chihuahua mix, Peaches (played by a cuddly, kissy-face pup named Stewart). Ralph pretends to own a dog, and the ensuing action around that ruse brings some of the play's most hilarious moments. There are many laughs more, all of them touching the truth of life after mid-life crises. All three of the major characters want the same thing, a special romantic love, and all three fear an all-too-common old-age fate, loneliness.

Michael is perfect as the aging, but not aged, Ralph, teasing and lovable, yearning for a reprise of the love he once had. Ross plays Carol with exactly the right mix of haughtiness and vulnerability, especially when her character is unwittingly funny.

At first hesitant, ("What if we go on a date and you die?") Carol warms to Ralph's attentions and insights, and Ralph begins wearing ties to their afternoon rendezvous. That change of attire is not lost on Ralph's only surviving sibling, his protective sister Rose, whose jealousy is partially justified by her own love lost. Patricia Conolly adeptly interprets what could otherwise be an unsympathetic character with perfect timing and understated expressions. "My brother is quite the catch," Rose tells Carol. "He can still drive at night."

Ralph woos Carol with reminiscences of his long-ago audition for the Metropolitan Opera, and she responds with a gift worthy of any music lover's Bucket List.

Grammy award nominated tenor Joshua Jeremiah as Ralph's younger self adds a magical rift to his scenes, beguiling those of us who like to sip a nice cab while daydreaming with our Andrea Bocelli CD's.

Family secrets and confessions threaten to derail everyone's happiness, but the wisdom that comes from long living prevails in the not-so-foreseeable end. All can be forgiven. This is a comedy, after all. Besides, as those of us seeing September as a life symbol know all too well, there is not much time left for more chances at a last romance.

"The Last Romance" plays through September 12 at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre on the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre stage in Balboa Park. Showtimes are: 7 pm Tues-Thurs and Sun; 8 pm Fri & Sat. Matinees at 2 pm Sat-Sun. Tickets are $29-62. Reservations online at: www.TheOldGlobe.org or by phone at (619) 23-GLOBE.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.