It’s better late than never for the couple at the heart of Florida Studio Theatre’s Southern Comforts.
By Kay Kipling
Love may be lovelier the second time around, as the old song goes, but that doesn’t mean it comes without challenges. Case in point: the couple in Kathleen Clark’s play Southern Comforts, now onstage at Florida Studio Theatre.
They meet cute, as seems essential to any love story. She (Amanda Cross, played by Susan Greenhill), is a native Southerner and a widow visiting her grown daughter in New Jersey, who drops by the home of Gus Klingman (Richard Bourg) on an errand. Gus is a seemingly grumpy widower who’s at first flummoxed by Amanda’s flirtatious ways. But when a rainstorm prevents her from leaving right away, and they discover a mutual interest in baseball….well, soon enough the conversation turns more promising.
The first act, as the two gradually get to know each other and the hurts they’ve each experienced (he, an unhappy marriage of more than 40 years, she, the loss of a husband who came back from war changed forever) is nicely paced by Clark, director Robert J. Farley and the cast. It may seem at first that Amanda is simply charming Gus out of his shell, but we eventually see that Amanda is likewise drawing the “comforts” of the title from his appreciation of her nature, so different from his, and from Gus’ deep-down loving heart. Their negotiations, as they come to terms about possibly marrying, are funny/sad and thoroughly believable, as these are people who’ve already lived long lives without each other.
In Act II, things change—from the set, which undergoes a transformation as Amanda’s furniture arrives—to the relationship, which hits a few bumps. It may be comic, as a drawn-out scene involving putting up storm windows is, or more poignant, as the big question for Amanda becomes: Are she and Gus going to be buried together, or with their first spouses?
Greenhill and Bourg are both engaging in their roles, and it’s easy to get caught up emotionally in their characters’ struggle to move forward with their lives together. No doubt there are a lot of nods of recognition in the Sarasota audience—along with a dose of comfort for us that it is possible for folks like these to find happiness.
Southern Comforts continues through Aug. 17 at FST; call 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.
Susan Greenhill and Richard Bourg in FST’s Southern Comforts.