Florida Studio Theatre's The Last Romance.
A play about a couple in their “golden” years who may be discovering new love sounds like a perfect offering for Sarasota audiences, especially when it stars veteran actor David S. Howard, who’s earned his respect over the years in theaters both local and beyond. So Florida Studio Theatre’s production of Joe DiPietro’s The Last Romance has built-in appeal that will engage most viewers—even if there’s not a great deal to it.
It has some charm, some sweetness and some funny lines to balance its predictability. The setup is very simple: Widower Ralph (Howard) has glimpsed a woman on his forays to a dog park (even though he doesn’t have a dog) who arouses in him hopes for a love to last the rest of his life. The woman, Carol (Barbara Broughton), is, as you might expect, at first resistant to this persistent stranger pursuing her in such a rush (he’s in a hurry, because after all, he’s 80). Ralph can be sly, and he’s not above telling a white lie or two to gain her attention.
But Carol gradually warms to him, which leads to a problem: Ralph’s caring but domineering sister, Rose (Marina Re), long deserted by her own husband, doesn’t want Ralph to supplant her in their home or in his affections with a new woman. Ralph has his own loyalty to Rose, something Carol understands since she had to care for her husband for years after he had a debilitating stroke. Can these two overcome the obstacles in their way for that last chance at love?
That’s really about all there is to it, except for some nice operatic interludes provided by Dane Reese as The Young Man—evidently the young Ralph, who once had a shot at singing for the Metropolitan Opera. The play is short (less than two hours with intermission), and probably the most dramatic moment comes when Carol loses her dog at the park.
But thanks largely to Howard’s winning, finely tuned performance, The Last Romance does have some lift. Re is frequently funny as the dog-hating Rose, and Broughton makes a good counterpart to Ralph as Carol (even though she doesn’t look the age her character claims to be). And any play with a dog in it, however briefly, is bound to raise some collective “awwwws.”
The Last Romance continues through Feb. 12 at FST’s Gompertz Theatre; for tickets call 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.