Last dance 

Carpenter Square Theatre offers an alternative to the multitude of holiday productions with The Last Romance, about finding love in life’s twilight years.

Making its Oklahoma debut, Romance tells the story of Ralph, an 80-year-old widower living a life of routine. One day, a choice to take a different path on his daily walk leads him to a second chance at love.

Defying his lonely sister’s jealous protests and the reticence of the object of his affection, he forges ahead and takes a chance on making a fool of himself for love.

In the process, Ralph regains a happiness that seemed all but lost.

Romance was penned by Tony Award-winning Joe DiPietro, the man behind Memphis, The Art of Murder and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. A CST production of DiPietro’s Over the River and Through the Woods, directed by Doobie Potter, won state, regional and national community theater awards, and went on to perform in Germany in 2001.

Potter, who has a special fondness for DiPietro’s work, returns to helm the current production.

“With Last Romance, [DiPietro] drew inspiration from time spent with his Italian-American grandparents in Hoboken, N.J., where the play is set,” said Potter.

With so few good roles for women in their 70s, and many talented actresses auditioning, Potter decided to double-cast the female roles. She conceded there are challenges in doing so, like an extended rehearsal process, but that benefits also exist.

“The actresses had the rare opportunity to watch their counterparts perform in the same roles. You never get to see how other characters onstage are reacting to your performance or what people are doing while you are waiting to come on,” she said. “It’s very enlightening.”

The other benefit is for the audience.

Potter said that between her and the veteran cast, there is a total of 348 years of theater experience showcased in Romance. Paul Smith stars as Ralph. Playing his cranky sister on alternating nights are Vicki Wilcox and Laurel Van Horn Jaworsky. Kitty Fisher and Jane Hall alternate as Ralph’s beloved Carol. Newcomer Robby Ray appears as young Ralph.

Potter said that while the play has obvious appeal to anyone 50 or older, or anyone who has spent a lot of time with the elderly, the humor and love story are universal, especially when it comes to life’s unexpected twists and turns.

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Eric Webb

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