‘The Last Romance’ Takes Lingering Look at Missed Connections

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9faebb12915ad63c3e36_4a1ea339306f143e0185_stock_image_-_arts_-_v2.jpg

MORRISTOWN, NJ – “The Last Romance,” Joe DiPietro’s tribute to late life relationships, has received a warm and, at times, engaging production at The Bickford Theatre.

DiPietro’s credits include “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” and “Over the River and Through the Woods.” He won a Tony for ‘”Memphis” and a drama desk award for best book of “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” He definitely knows how to put a show together and to connect with an audience.

Sadly, “The Last Romance” is more static than stimulating. Most of the action takes place on a park bench, as Ralph and Carol become acquainted. This is a dog park and she is there with her cute little mutt.

Although Ralph doesn’t have a dog, he just enjoys coming here. They gradually strike up a friendship. Ralph’s sister Rose, however, runs interference.

The cast does a good job of keeping the story line moving along. J.C. Hoyt plays Ralph, still recalling his long ago audition at the Metropolitan Opera House. His youthful memory is reflected by Cory Singer, who plays Ralph as a young man, interspersing the scenes with brief arias. (That’s really the best part of the play.)

Ralph’s sister Rose has been separated from her husband of 22 years, who is now living with his girlfriend in Brooklyn. She’s caustic and opinionated. She’s also suspicious of Carol who she thinks has her eye on Ralph.

Indeed she does. When he finds her dog, who has run off, she promises to give him anything he wants. And what he wants is a ticket to the opera. She surprises him by planning a trip to Milan and an evening at La Scala. But at the last moment they have a disagreement. It seems Carol has not been totally honest about her invalid husband.

One problem with this play is the emphasis on stereotypes. There are plenty of jokes about ‘old people,’ (“He’s quite a catch. He can still drive at night.”)  In addition, the limited set means there isn’t much for the actors to do other than to sit on the bench or enter and exit at the sides of the stage. A projection of a park, brownstones and other scenes help a little, but not enough.

I’m not sure what would have helped this play, if anything. Director Eric Hafen has done his best to breathe life into it. Hoyt, Thea Ruth White as Carol, Noreen Farley as Rose and Cory Singer as the young man are all convincing in their roles. White has the charm and zest for life that makes her intriguing to Ralph. Farley, who often performs with Dreamcatcher Repertory Company in Summit, has the surefire delivery to inject humor into her role. Still, there isn’t much to rescue this tale from a dull, earthbound scenario.  Obviously, Ralph should have flown off to Milan with Carol and at least had a fling in Italy. What is he waiting for?

“The Last Romance” continues at The Bickford, locate d in the Morris Museum in Morristown, through Oct. 13. For tickets, call (973) 971-3706 or visit morrismuseum.org.  Perhaps upcoming productions will be juicier. They include ‘Knight’s Gambit,’ about Sherlock Holmes, “Say Goodnight Gracie,” (George Burns and Grace Allen) and “Forever Plaid.”

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