Prepare to get swept off your feet by ECHO Player’s latest show The Last Romance, directed by Thea Stavroff.
Set in present-day New Jersey, The Last Romance tells the story of an 80-year-old Italian-American named Ralph. One day, he takes a different route on his walk and meets the elegant and reserved Carol in a dog park. He immediately sets about wooing her with his boyish charm, all while having to deal with the jealousy of his live-in sister, Rose. And of course, everyone has a secret that is revealed in good time.
Veteran ECHO Players Aviva Fox and Alan Clift, who is himself 80 years old, took on the roles of Carol and Ralph. Their acting experience shone through with polished and animated performances. There were a couple of hiccups with timing and a few slips in Clift’s Jersey accent, but this wasn’t enough to distract from the scene.
Gwendolyn Flynn, who previously performed in Campbell River, took on the role of Rose. Her character started off stiff, but her timing was always spot-on and she loosened up by the end of the show.
The romance between Clift and Fox’s characters is passionate, sweet and ageless, making it easy for anyone to get caught up in the love. But The Last Romance isn’t syrupy as reality slips in with frank talk of loneliness, aging, family and the past. It gives the play texture and depth, and the changes in pace also helps keep the play from becoming monotonous.
Ralph’s love of opera plays a large part in The Last Romance. A younger version of the character, performed by first-time ECHO Player Liam Robertson, appears on-stage throughout the show to sing. Even for those who aren’t a fan of the opera could appreciate strong vocals by the young Nanaimoite with a deep voice.
The Last Romance delivers a lot of laughs, which is typical of author Joe DiPietro (who also wrote I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Over the River and Through the Woods). Comedy, often in the form of witty remarks and wacky situations, is liberally sprinkled throughout the play without making the show sound like a gag reel.
The crew of The Last Romance put on a smooth production. The set was uncluttered and effective, with its three-sided rotating wall making for easy transitions between scenes.
While the lighting was occasionally a little slow on the mark, the well-executed sound managed to bring a dog park to life without any canines ever crossing the stage.
The Last Romance premieres tonight and runs until Mar. 1, with evening shows Wed.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are on Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $19 for adults, $16 for seniors 65 and over and $10 for students with valid ID. They are available at the Village Theatre Box Office (110, West 2nd Ave., Qualicum Beach and 250-752-3522) Tues. through Sat. from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
For your chance to win free tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org with “The Last Romance” in the subject line by Feb. 16. Please include your name and phone number to be eligible.