The last romance
If the idea of a play involving two oldsters who meet cute in a dog park sets off your "cloying alert" alarm, you're not alone. But this play at the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre features some genuinely funny lines and benefits from delightful performances by two longtime Cleveland acting pros. Mary Jane Nottage plays the stylish 70-something Carol who is hit on by rumpled octogenarian Ralph, played by CVLT fixture Don Edelman. And although the first act seems overly long, playwright Joe DiPietro studs it with a number of surefire jokes ("Ralph is quite a catch, he can still drive at night!" says his sister Rose at one point). The arc of Ralph and Carol's relationship is not entirely predictable, which is an unexpected treat. But the real joy is watching these two performers do their thing. Nottage is continually engaging as Carol, a woman who is dealing with an ill husband and, now, a rather seriously wrinkled admirer. And while Edelman may inventively recreate some of his dialog as the opera-loving Ralph, he's so experienced on stage that you rarely see any blips. They are supported by a solid Margo Parker as Rose and Andrew Kondik, who gamely sings some interstitial snatches of arias as the younger Ralph. Although there are some static stretches in the blocking, first time director Cindee Catalano-Edelman allows Nottage and Edelman the room to find their own beats and tempos. And that is a pleasure to watch.
Through May 10 at the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre's River Street Playhouse, 56 River St., Chagrin Falls, 440-247-8955, clvt.org.
Contrary to the lyric in the theme song for the movie M*A*S*H, suicide isn't always painless. In fact, the pain is often profound for the friends and loved ones who are left behind, especially since many suicides happen in private and are therefore mysterious and agonizing. Not so for the impending tragedy that sits at the center of 'night Mother by Marsha Norman, now at Beck Center. This suicide-in-progress is announced early on by the 40-ish Jessie, who tells her mother Thelma that she plans to use the gun she found in the attic to do the deed. This news comes as a shock to Thelma, even though she's aware of her daughter's spiraling life: recently divorced, saddled with a grown son who's a petty thief, unable to work due to her epileptic seizures (or "fits," as Thelma calls them). This Pulitzer Prize-winning play is an almost perfectly structured work, spare in its language and devastating in its unavoidable conclusion. Therefore, it is a splendid playground for two talented actors such as Laura Perrotta and Dorothy Silver. The rigidly contained Perrotta is magnificent in portraying Jessie as a woman with no future left, shuffling and speaking in a dull monotone. She sounds like death would sound, if death could speak. In the challenging role of Thelma, the renowned Dorothy Silver finds many of the darkly humorous moments in the play and lands them solidly. When Jessie says longingly that death would be dark and quiet, Silver responds with perfect timing: "So is the back yard!" Playwright Norman's script is a perfect GPS device for locating loneliness and depression, no "recalculating" required. And this production delivers the audience to that destination with harrowing assurance.
Through May 4 at Beck Center, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-2540, beckcenter.org.
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