Story: Ralph takes the same walk every day, same park, same path, same familiarity. One day he goes crazy, changes his routine and becomes smitten with a beautiful woman strolling with her dog in the city’s dog park. Suddenly, the retired widower has a new spark and aggressively befriends the reluctant Carol.
At first annoyed by his overtures, Carol eventually grows comfortable with their daily meetings in the park. She tells Ralph that her husband of many years had a debilitating stroke, and Ralph infers that the man is dead. He also concludes that Carol has a deep and abiding affection for Peaches, her mixed-breed pup she so faithfully walks each day.
As the two grow closer, to the disapproval of Ralph’s sister Rose, Carol learns that Ralph once was an aspiring opera singer, even having an audition for the New York Metropolitan Opera, until life got in the way. That was then and this is now, though. Is it possible that romance once again is in the air for Ralph in the winter of his life?
Highlights: Playwright Joe DiPietro has a knack for writing stories that appeal to a broad swath of humanity, as musicals such as I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Memphis and comedies like Over the River and Through the Woods have proven.
With The Last Romance he’s crafted an affecting and endearing little work that speaks to the enduring possibilities of love at any age. In the capable hands of director Ken Clark, Kirkwood Theatre Guild recently mounted an affecting rendition of DiPietro’s lilting ballad of a comedy.
Other Info: The small cast included Bert Wunderlich, Jan Meyer, Nancy Crouse and Jeremy Pyle, along with a mop of a mutt named Oscar Meyer in the pivotal role of Peaches. Wunderlich has a winning ability to deliver his lines with expert timing that enhanced DiPietro’s clever dialogue. He presented Ralph as an affable and upbeat man, despite the terrible tragedies he’s endured in his 77 years. “If you live long enough, you can get used to anything,” he tells Carol.
Jan Meyer and Nancy Crouse made for a formidable pair of older ladies exchanging barbs in reference to Ralph, on the surface a man most unlikely to generate much heat. Meyer presented a smooth and polished Carol, a lady of refinement and elegance who masked considerable disappointment and frustrations until Ralph awakens her own longings.
Crouse, while not always convincing with an Italian accent, nonetheless did a fine job delineating Rose’s suffocating behavior within the narrow confines the character has established for herself in a lifetime of unhappiness.
Jeremy Pyle, as young Ralph, demonstrated a beautiful, rich voice as the opera performer wannabe. Additionally, his presence on stage with Wunderlich in a few key scenes added poignancy and dimension to the tale.
Set designer Destiny Graham created a lovely rendition of that dog park, set behind a park bench and surrounded by a fence and trees. Denise Wade provided lighting, JD Wade added the rich, luxurious sound design to occasionally accompany Pyle for the tunes he didn’t sing a cappella, and Jean Heckman dressed the characters in clothing that matched their economic status.
Kudos to director Clark, his cast and crew for an enchanting interpretation of this Last Romance.
Play: The Last Romance
Group: Kirkwood Theatre Guild
Venue: Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Community Center
Dates: Show concluded
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of John Lamb