Though love may be sweet at any age, the wizening years don't make affairs of the heart any easier — or any less comical.
That's the premise of Tony-Award-winning playwright Joe DiPietro's romantic comedy "The Last Romance," opening Friday, Aug. 10, at the Magic Circle Theatre in Carmel Valley.
When 80-year-old Italian widower Ralph Bellini decides to take a different route on his daily walk, his path leads him to Carol Reynolds — an elegant woman of seventy-something years with a reticent heart and a yapping Chihuahua. While Ralph woos Carol with his operatic dreams from years-gone-by, the two quickly learn that late love comes with its own suite of obstacles to overcome.
This Central Coast premiere will be directed by Elsa Con and features Rollie Dick, Aaron Arias, Virginia Bell and Teresa del Piero.
Con was first attracted to directing this show when she saw it produced at the San Jose Repertory Theatre. "In an hour and 45 minutes people were crying and laughing, back and forth," she said. "It's definitely a comedy, but it's a bittersweet comedy. Your feelings get a work out."
Dick, who plays the lead role of Ralph, relies on his own life experience to create this emotional depth in his humorous character.
"I'm not 80 — I'm 72," he said. "But this is the sweetest, most exciting time of my life. And that's what this play is about: people in that age range enjoying life to its fullest, being silly, goofy and romantic.
Even though the production features a protagonist in his senior years, Con said that the audience appeal of this show reaches beyond any set age demographics.
"People of different ages appreciate it at different levels," she explained. "Older people can identify with it — an 80-year-old tries to do a rap routine, but then his back goes into spasm while he's doing it. As we get older, we can all identify with these things about aging. But the other night (during rehearsal) we had 30-year-olds in the audience and they were laughing."
Con attributes this wide-ranging appeal to the fact that the humor in the show comes from characters that are drawn from reality. Not only is she referring to the fact that DiPietro creates believable characters in all the plays he writes, but she's also referring to the fact that in this particular case the characters were literally conceived from actual people.
Before writing this script, DiPietro was approached by iconic performers Marion Ross and Paul Michael and asked to write a play specifically for them. The result was a late-life love story that grew out of this couple's relationship. "The Last Romance" debuted at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in 2010.
Besides characters drawn from real life, the upcoming production also features operatic arias and an actual, live dog — both firsts for Magic Circle Theatre.
About performing with a Chihuahua, Dick mused, "I've done a lot of theater, both professional and semi-professional, and there are a couple of things you attempt not to do. One of them is never be on stage with a child, because they can steal focus from anyone — except a live animal. So with this I've learned to share the stage."
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What: Magic Circle Theatre presents "The Last Romance"
Where: Magic Circle Theatre, 8 El Caminito, Carmel Valley Village
When: Opens at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 10, and continues at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 9
Tickets: $22 general, discounts for senior and students on Sundays only ($20), at Magic Circle Theatre 659-7500
Information: 659-7500, www.magiccircletheatre.net