SLCA’s “The Last Romance” Charms

Sand Lake Center for the Arts’ production of “The Last Romance” evokes charm, sentiment, and laughter. The plot is simple. Can’t life be more like opera? Director Maureen Aumand and co-director Dennis Skiba present a wonderfully joyful trip into life’s most simple pleasure: love.

The set of “The Last Romance” / Aileen Burke

The audience meets Ralph Bellini (played by the versatile George Filieau) on a bench at the dog park, waiting for someone to come. After being chastised by his sister Rose (Deborah Mazzone), we meet Carol Reynolds (Judi Merriam). Ralph and Carol experience a whirlwind romance; two characters with seemingly nothing to lose but everything to gain within one another. Ralph begats this romance with a simple question: “Do you like opera?”

George Fileau and Judi Merriam in “The Last Romance” at SLCA. / Melanie Sheldon

As the pair learns more about one another, the narrative is accompanied by wonderful interludes from the “Young Man”, an opera singer (Jerred Hickey), who is later revealed to be a young Ralph.

Rose’s powerful moments come in the second act. Mazzone delivers silent and powerful acting while reading a letter from her estranged husband that keeps you intently gripped on her next move. Fabulous.

Filieau and Merriam have created characters that you invest in quite quickly. Although the stakes might not be the highest, they certainly are for them. You root for their success as a couple almost instantly.

This simple concept on stage is enhanced with wonderful projections from Nicky “Nicky Lightz” Nealon, and an ornate sound design from Josh Horowitz.

Contemplating “The Last Romance” left me with many feelings on my ride back to Albany from West Sand Lake. My heart was full in a way I had some trouble describing, but then I realized it’s because it was full of sentiment that I, as a 23-year-old woman, had yet to experience. What a privilege to peek into these emotions for a short while.

I have the great fortune to know many elders. I try my hardest to learn from them, respect them, and listen to their stories. I feel like I learned something here; almost a beautiful secret that was not meant for me, but I relished nonetheless. “The Last Romance” holds power by sharing a story with actors ‘of a certain age’ that’s about love, not exclusively their age. Their age informs their journey together. It’s a reminder of the wonderful complexity of being human and our need for love. This reminder stands true in both storylines; that of Ralph and Carol, and that of Rose and her husband (who the audience never sees).

Aumand and Skiba’s production shows that when the theatrical community calls for increased representation, this should mean representation in all capacities. Diversity in stories can and should be about age as well.

“The Last Romance” runs at Sand Lake Center for the Arts March 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here.

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