“Still” Could Use Some Forward Movement

A man and a woman of a certain age sit at a hotel bar finishing off a bottle of wine and banter playfully about how the body’s cells are completely regenerated every four years before he persuades her to join him in his room upstairs for the night. They are former lovers named Mark (Tim Daly) and Helen (Jayne Atkinson), and Mark has shown up in town and invited her out for a drink out of the blue. Is this a night of second chances of senior lovers making the most of the days they have left or is there something more sinister and frankly dangerous about these two near strangers trying to pick up where they left off 30 years ago?

Jayne Atkinson & Tim Daly/Joey Moro

There might be a love story in Lia Romeo’s “Still,” now playing in its World Premiere at the Dorset Theatre Festival with a starry and twinkling cast, but as they say, the course of true love never did run smooth. The complications to their union start piling up before they hit the elevator. By the time their tryst is less than 10 minutes over, the gulf between them is as vast as the country and should be just as insoluble. To say more about the revelations would rob viewers of the significant pleasures of this two-hander which is being given a ridiculously good production.

The two leads are charming. Jayne Atkinson easily wins your sympathies as a single author who is being improbably wooed by an old lover whom she has moved beyond. She is game and ready, stripping onstage, calling him firmly to account (to the audience’s vociferous delight), even gently accompanying herself on the mandolin to “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”

Tim Daly & Jayne Atkinson/Joey Moro

Tim Daly is a more than worthy match, quickly scoring laughs with deft wordplay in the opening scene and a reasoned response in the second scene that some might find indefensible. “It’s not like I have an STD,” he replies when his true colors are revealed. Some might wish he had; that’s treatable. His character Mark says he doesn’t deal with the what if and would rather deal with what is. By the end of the play, he’s ready to use the imaginative phrase.

Playwright Lia Romeo introduces a powerful conflict (which I can’t reveal), and it is one of the more pressing issues of the day, but I didn’t feel it was dealt with sufficiently. It is like she brought a gun onstage but only nicked some furniture. Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt has maximized the use of her two stars, and they are shown to great advantage in this not-quite romance. The set by Alexander Woodward moves sleekly and is appropriately Doubletree elegant.

The World Premiere of “Still” is a fast 70-minutes of two roads diverged in the wood, and even though the attraction and the pleasures are enormous, the paths have grown farther apart than ever.

“Still” plays at Dorset Theatre Festival through 8/5. Tickets: www.dorsettheatrefestival.org or 802-867-2223

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