The Last Romance

  • 05/27/2014
  • Reporters Desk

By John Farrell

Ralph Bellini takes a walk in a different direction for once in his retired life and it makes all the difference in his world.

Well, actually Ralph makes the difference: Scott Renfro, playing Ralph, makes plenty of difference when he meets Carol Reynolds (Daryl Hogue France) at the dog park in a Hoboken, N.J. neighborhood and proceeds to woo her, The Last Romance of his life. He is assertive, even aggressive, she is reluctant, but together the sparks fly, the romance develops, and even music, operatic music provided by a young man, Mathew Ian Welch, with a rich and booming baritone, flows.

But will the romance last? Will Ralph, in his 80s (but still able to drive at night as his sister, Rose Tagliagtelle tells Carol) be able to close the deal? Rose (the stalwart and always reliable Geraldine Fuentes) doesn’t think so, because she has a friend who lives in Carol’s building and knows something of her past.

Ralph once successfully auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera but never found out. (Rose kept the knowledge to herself 60 years previously.) Now he just loves opera without regrets and he infects Carol with the bug, with the desire to see La Scala in Milan and hear the passionate music. But first he has to rescue her dog, which disappeared, and he has to make Rose, who starts out as an interfering sister but becomes more likeable, more understandable, each time she appears, understand his passion.

France’s Carol is prim and proper, lovely but also lonely, and she is, perhaps unwillingly, perhaps not, roped into Ralph’s world. She decides she does want one more fling and books tickets to Italy.

Joe DiPietro, who wrote The Last Romance, knows where he wants us to go, and he leads us gently along the path of reluctance, fulfillment and more. Perry Shields directs with a sure hand. The single set and costumes by Bradley Allen Lock are perfect.

The Last Romance is a tribute to the human heart, to passion and sensibility even at the end of life. It is a wonderful lesson in how things work out (sort of).

Welch, by the way, is worth the price of admission alone. He sings snatches from Italian opera and even — if we are not mistaken — some Mozart, with great voice and presence. It will be nice to hear him again on a bigger stage.

Tickets are $25.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, at 2 p.m. Sundays, with special show Thursday, at 8 p.m. June 12, which includes a cast discussion afterward. The play runs through June 21.

Details: (424) 243-6882;
Venue: Torrance Theatre
Location: 1316 Cabrillo Ave., Torrance


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