As I sat in the theatre, “ 36 and dateless” on my parents’ 49th wedding anniversary, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was in the right frame of mind to enjoy a play entitled The Last Romance. The irony, nostalgia and yes the humor of the situation was not lost on me as I read the phrase used in the summary materials, “is it ever too late for love?” Honestly, this play had enormous potential for being a phenomenally depressing Wednesday night at the theatre, but lucky for me it turned out to be uplifting and sincerely charming.
Perhaps it’s the actors, who are so infectiously adorable, that make this play so pleasant (seriously, you’ll want to pinch their cheeks and invite each one of them over to dinner.) Maybe the echos of “carpe diem” that court you through every bit of this flirtatious fable are contagious and have something to do with how I was seized by this play. Or it could be the melodramatic Opera theme, guiding us with a musical cadence and language we don’t know, but subliminally understand on a cellular level. Whatever it was I couldn’t help but really like this story.
All five of the characters (yes, five) are a bit over the top. This caricature approach to acting would normally be an easy target for criticism, but in this instance it is not only tolerated but genuinely embraced due to the larger than life metaphor of Opera that is so central to the piece. The choice is justified within the story and I found it surprisingly easy to accept.
Despite finding the premise to be a bit too predictable and some of the dialogue to be a tad contrived, I really didn’t feel that detracted from my overall enjoyment. If nothing else this play gives you hope and you can’t help but root for a happy ending despite all the warnings that it might not come. Watching these characters’ pasts unfold and how that shapes their present and possibly their future has a kind of inspirational effect.
The question posed “is it too late for love?” isn’t explored deeply within the play with a lot of intellectual exposition, but rather the theme is underscored by the sweetly crafted, romantically designed and fully entertaining action of the plot. Consequently, the play doesn’t naturally lend itself to prolonged conversation afterward. It didn’t stick with me as some plays do, but that’s okay. A perfect note can’t linger forever, the moment must eventually pass and the life of this play pretty much ends at the bows. Though you may have to try a bit harder to remember to initiate post show conversations, that doesn’t mean it didn’t have themes worth discussing, just that the talking afterwards seemed to be upstaged by the performance. Given the themes of time and living in the moment, that certainly seems appropriate. Spend time living rather than contemplating about living is a suitable take away I think.
So in the end, this funny little play with an intergenerational appeal and a healthy dose of witty banter, performed by a cast that is totally endearing earns an uninhibited four out of five jewels in the tiara. The Last Romance plays through November 6th at the San Jose Rep.