Christina Wright

Boulevard offers a mature “Last Romance”

Three 60+ actors, one young outlier, and a fluffy dog complete a strong cast telling an often-untold style of story.

By - Feb 22nd, 2013 01:32 pm
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Michael Weber and Anita Domnitz (with pal Rita) play Ralph and Carol, who cross paths later in life than the average romance. Photo credit Troy Freund.

Many theaters might be hesitant to stage The Last Romance, a play about a group of seniors grappling with the struggles of growing older. The Boulevard Theatre is not “many theaters.”

The production of Joe DiPietro’s comedy is directed by artistic director Mark Bucher – incredibly enthusiastic about presenting the play on opening night in the Boulevard’s intimate space on Kinnickinnick – and follows a widowed gentleman in his sixties named Ralph Bellini (Michael Weber). Ralph is an opera fanatic who once auditioned for the Met in New York City, and now lives with his older, overbearing sister Rose (Barbara Weber). One day, he strays from his usual walking route and crosses paths with Carol Reynolds (Anita Domnitz) at a dog park. He introduces himself as “Raffaello,” fancying himself an Italian charmer, and their lives take an exciting turn.

Michael Weber plays the likable and somewhat awkward Ralph very well. He’s believable and each of his jokes hit the mark. Barbara Weber is a great overprotective sister – she’s pretty annoying, but that’s how she’s supposed to be. Domnitz is a bit flat for most of the play, but her acting becomes more textured in the second act. In one scene, she’s accompanied by a live, adorable dog, which helps too. (The pooch’s real name is Rita, and she belongs to friends of the theater.) Overall, the actors are adept at portraying the humor and the sadness that is all part of aging.

The show’s juvenile outlier is The Young Man (Doug Clemons). He’s Ralph’s younger self, lingering just outside the action and belting out arias that fill the theatre. These operatic vignettes move the story along while setting the mood, and it was a treat to hear his rich voice in the cozy Boulevard Theatre – although the talented Clemons deserves a much larger stage.

While The Last Romance jumps between a variety of settings – the dog park, Ralph and Rose’s home, the stage of the Met – Bucher and his crew have gone with a minimalist approach. Set designer Jaime Jastrab makes the most of the Boulevard’s small space, delineating three divisions by painting three large rectangles of color: green, gold and blue. Two benches and a little audience imagination do the rest.

Boulevard Theatre’s production of The Last Romance runs through March 3, and tickets range from $20 to $25. To order, call (414) 744-5757, or visit brownpapertickets.com.

0 thoughts on “Boulevard offers a mature “Last Romance””

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for writing a review which is articulate and supportive. And I also thank you for including some elements in your writing which other writers may overlook (lighting, setting)…

    Even a small theatre companies (Boulevard and others)do put thought into trying to create an environment which supports the writing, the acting and the playwright’s intentions.

    Best

    mark bucher @ boulevard theatre

  2. Anonymous says:

    In addition to this very positive review, it is of interest to report that the LAST ROMANCE audiences absolutely loved the production.

    As the cast came out for their bow, Blvd audiences spontaneously and enthusiastically rose to its feet, applauding!

    The cast have created a work that is funny, touching and moving. This is a superlative work for all audiences, but especially older audiences to enjoy.

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