Don’t miss the train for The Last Romance. Here’s a perfect Valentine gift to the greater Milford area as well as to theater lovers everywhere. Beautifully crafted by Joe DiPietro, this play focuses on a lonely widower who discovers that it’s never too late to fall in love again. Ralph Bellini is a fun-loving octogenarian with an over-protective sister, Rose. When charming neighbor Carol comes along with her mop-like dog named Peaches, the audience discovers what really makes these characters tick.
Exquisitely directed by Nancy A. Herman, this show starts on a perfect note thanks to Kevin Miller, a young tenor who sings with so full and rich a voice, you don’t want him to stop singing or walk off the stage. Miller plays Ralph as a young man, but when he sings, eyes close, people lean in closer, and the audience practically swoons. Quite simply, he is superb. Not surprisingly, he has performed with the Opera du Perigord in the southwest of France, the Connecticut Lyric Opera and was a featured soloist for the former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush at St. Ann’s Church in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Mind you, Kevin Miller is not the main character in this play, which means the cast has to be really good or he will easily upstage each and every one of them. Happily, that is not the case. Richard Yanowitz takes hold of the male lead role and never lets go. His performance radiates romance, with his eyes smiling and his easy banter tickling the audience’s fancy. There’s more to Ralph than first meets the eye. Fun loving and a bit of a flirt, this is a character with morals and values. This is a man who loves his sister and honors his wife’s memory.
Andrea Garmun as Rose should win some type of an award for her poignant portrayal of a woman deserted by an unfaithful husband who suddenly finds herself terrified of losing her brother. Garmun has every Italian expression down pat. Though her last name doesn’t end in a vowel nor does it sound Italian, she’s got Italian in her somewhere. No one can fake her perfect timing or perfect facial expressions when she delivers an Italian idiom. She is “favoloso.”
Nancy Hammett couldn’t have been more perfectly cast as the sophisticated and charming Carol. When she plays cool and stand-offish, there’s no doubt she is a no-nonsense woman. When she becomes playful and gay, she’s simply delightful. Carrying her own burden well, it takes a while for Carol to forget about her invalid husband for just a few moments and remember what it felt like to be in love. Once she does get back her love of life, there’s no stopping her. Hammett is a strong performer who handles the stage well. Perhaps it’s her background in dance that makes her every movement seem so fluid.
Even “Packy” Herman as Peaches the dog got his fair share of “oohs” and “ahhs” from a most appreciative opening night audience. There are no weak links here. Kevin Pelkey’s effective set design with Rick Senft’s artistry captures a park-like setting and works well, as does Donald Rowe’s lighting and Kevin Miller and Tom Rushen’s sound design. This is a superior community theater production. Don’t miss this show. It’s a valentine sent straight from the heart. It plays through Feb. 22.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]