by Joe DiPietro
Directed by Russell Treyz
Florida Studio Theatre's Gompertz Theatre
Cocoanut & Palm Aves., Sarasota, 941-366-9000
Dec. 7, 2011 to Feb. 11, 2012

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

Introduced by snippets of operatic overtures, The Last Romance sets up a plot that's both old fashioned and a modern version of a romance with obstacles. Some will be met by song in memory (Hero Ralph once auditioned to sing for The Met) or reality. After a cute meet in a park for dogs, strewn with golden autumn leaves, 80+year old widower and retired laborer Ralph begins to court  elegant ex-executive secretary Carol. He first saw her by chance when he strayed from his usual walking path. In unlikely, humorous ways, her dog brought them together. Despite dire warnings about his health from Ralph's sister, and maybe because of  it and the uncertainties that come with advancing age, he hurries the romance. It makes Rose consider her own relationship to the husband who left her for another woman 22 years ago. (He wants Rose to divorce him so he can marry his now-dying partner.)  Of course, though Rose has cooked and kept house for Ralph, she's also relied on him to live with and for.

Playwright DiPietro seems to be saying ultimately that if it's late in life, it's yet never too late for love-though that may be of various kinds. When Carol holds back from Ralph, he's reminded that, as in opera, life gets in the way of lovers. Still, there's more hope and happiness than at first.

Actor extraordinaire David S. Howard endears himself as Ralph, whether with humor or pathos. Marina Re's Rose is full of gumption. As Carol, Barbara Broughton displays emotions ranging from annoyance and fear to love and excitement. Dane Reese appears as The Young Man who may be  Ralph's idea of himself as a youth and wonderful baritone (which he displays so well) or the ideal who bridges times between his first get together with Carol and a dream trip to Italy and LaScala. Director Russell Treyz assures that no characters will be just types. He also wove in excellent sound; unseen dogs bark with fervor. Bianca, the shih-tzu, is well behaved.

April Soroko designed the prevelant autumn park scene, though moving the park benches indoors later isn't entirely successful. They're just not indoor seating. Her costumes, though, are just right---in Carol's case, colorful and stylish; in everyone's, defining. Robert Perry's lighting is natural. Garry Allan Breul, stage manager, worked with  Kellie Karen, production stage manager. Time: 1 hr., 40 mins.

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