The Bickford Theatre kicked-off its 2013-2014 season this weekend with the East Coast premiere of The Last Romance by, Jersey born and raised, Joe DiPietro. DiPietro is also the author of I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, (the second longest running off-Broadway musical), Memphis (2010 Tony-award winner for Best Musical), All Shook Up, The Toxic Avenger and, a particular favorite, Over the River and Through the Woods, which was staged at the Bickford two years ago.
The Last Romance is set in Hoboken, also the setting for Over The River. The play is a warm, tender and very funny tale of late love between two senior citizens. Ralph (J.C. Hoyt) is an 80 year old lonely widower living with his sister Rose (Noreen Farley). Rose has lived with him since his wife died 12 years earlier.
One day he breaks from his daily routine to journey to a part of the neighborhood park that has always been foreign territory....a dog park. The simple act of taking a new path results in his finding romance with an elegant woman, Carol (Thea Ruth White). Carol is in the park daily at 4:30 pm to walk her small dog Peaches. Ralph displays immediate interest, but Carol is distant, she even expresses indignation at his rather clumsy, aggressive approach. Here is the magic of DiPietro. His use of language is remarkable. He writes the way real people speak, middle class in this case, with each word perfect in naturally propelling the plot.
Ralph's dream as a young man was to be an opera singer. He even made it to the stage of the old Met for an audition. The world of opera is a central theme of the plot. DiPietro cleverly adds a young man with a fine voice (Cory Singer) to represent the early Ralph. He sings portions of arias at strategic moments in the play.
Playing Ralph is an exceptional actor that we first saw in the Women's Theater Company's recent production of The Fantasticks J.C. Hoyt. Hoyt performed the same part he had originated in the long running New York production of The Fantasticks. We even awarded him one our 2012 New Jersey Footlights Awards for the performance.
Playing Ralph's sister is another recipient of our Footlights Awards Noreen Farley. Noreen is clearly the leading character actress in North Jersey, both professional and community theater. Her 2012 Award was for her performance in the Dreamcatcher Repertory Company of Summit's Blood: A Comedy.
She is spot-on in her performance as Ralph's live-in sister who unselfishly caters to his needs. In one key scene she questions Carol regarding her intentions toward Ralph. Informing Carol that Ralph has a major crush on her... "all he talks about is you." She adds "of course, he would be a great catch....he can drive at night." You may have to be of a certain age to properly appreciate that line.
The elegant, refined, Carol who lives in a nearby upmarket highrise, is beautifully played by Thea Ruth White. Joe DiPietro has sprinkled the delightful script with several plot twists that contribute to the enjoyment of The Last Romance.
The stage may be spare, simple park bench center stage with rear screen projection of the park and other locations behind, but the superior performances of J.C. Hoyt, Noreen Farley and Thea Ruth White in this sweet romantic comedy make this a special night out. Director Eric Hafen, also the Bickford Artistic Director, has delivered another quality event to the Bickford.
Director Hafen's creative team includes: Set, Lighting and Sound Designer: Roman Klima; Properties Designer: Ric McAllister; Costume Designer: Andrea Dente; Production Stage Manager: Yumi Matsurra.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio Friday September 27, 2013
Joe DiPietro’s The Last Romance, runs through October 13, 2013 at The Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Road in Morristown, NJ.
Performances: Thursday October 3 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm, Friday October 4 and 11 at 8 pm, Saturday October 5 at 2 pm, Saturday October 12 at 8 pm and Sunday September 29 and October 6 and 13 at 2 pm
Tickets: Reserved seats are $45 for the General Public, $40 for Senior Citizens, Morris Museum and Bickford Theatre Guild Members, and $20 for Students (18 or under or with valid college ID). Group rates available. To purchase tickets or for further information, please contact the Bickford Theatre Box Office at 973.971.3706 or visit www.bickfordtheatre.org.