Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

The Last Romance
Insight Theatre Company
Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard's review of Anything Goes

Tommy Nolan and Joneal Joplin
Photo by John Lamb
It's funny, but the least remarkable person on stage in this 2008 comedy is usually the most remarkable. Joneal Joplin is the leading man, Ralph, and he's still the dean of local actors: tall, stately, and quite possibly brilliant. But like a lot of leading men, he mostly carries the melody of this particular play, with charm and wit, while others strike resounding harmonies around him. And it almost goes without saying that the technique he employs along the way, in the art of listening, is as fascinating as ever.

The Last Romance is a tightly constructed little family/relationship comedy from Joe DiPietro, one of the most successful, and even admirable, theater writers in America. It has a pleasant flare of stagecraft in the dream-self for Ralph as a young man, played by the baritone Clark Sturdevant, recalling his youth, some 60 years gone by. Mr. Sturdevant sings beautifully, and actually deserved a lot more applause than he got on the first Sunday matinee at the Kranzberg Arts Center.

On a (presumably) different topic, however, there's also an air of calculation in the plotting of The Last Romance, and in the presence of that memory-self. And maybe the concept of a "Dream Laurey" was just not innovative enough for the typical septuagenarian/octogenarian Sunday afternoon crowd. But thanks to director Alan Knoll, everyone rises above all that with unstoppable verve and authenticity.

There's an unexpectedly fine performance from Insight Theatre's Artistic Director Maggie Ryan as Mr. Joplin's sister Rose. And, though we should abjure any production staffer who casts themself in their own play, Ms. Ryan's time on stage is beautifully spent, especially in a scene where we learn about her own failed romance. (We shouldn't be surprised: she's an Equity performer, and—as far as I know—this is her first time casting herself.) And it turns out she's perfect, a bubbly Irish actress playing a hard-nosed Italian spinster.

Tommy Nolan is excellent as Carol, the object of Ralph's wily overtures. A steady, anguished theme of her character, and of the entire play, is that this is the "last chance" for any of them, at love (Rose is the youngest, at 77). And these highly polished performers carry it off seamlessly. But it's a theme that feels intentionally short-sighted—there are so many twists and turns in every romance, I don't know how anyone could possibly say it's their "last chance," or even that any particular romance has the dimensionality to provide basic nutrients for a healthy emotional life, even if it does last into the December of one's own years.

But what an unromantic thing to say. The play seems to speak the same sort of "stage Italian" as John Patrick Shanley's film Moonstruck, from 1987, even in its operatic subplot. You can't damn the play for that, though—even English theater was mad about Italy during Shakespeare's time. And, 400 years later, "stage Italian" still seems to be the most potent language of love there is.

The Last Romance, through March 18, 2018, at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Ave., St. Louis MO. For more information visit

Ralph Bellini: Joneal Joplin*
Carol Reynolds: Tommy Nolan
Rose Tagliatelle: Maggie Ryan*
The Young Man: Clark Sturdevant
Peaches (the dog): Oscar

* Denotes Member, Actors Equity Association

Production Staff:
Directed by: Alan Knoll
Stage Manager: Landon Shaw
Assistant Stage Manager: Sam Yahl
Accompanist: Nancy Mayo
Sound Board Operator: Calyn Roth
Technical Director: Joe Novak
Scenic Design: Landon Shaw
Master Electrician: Tony Anselmo
Costume Design: Teresa Doggett
Sound Design: Robin Weatherall
Lighting Design: Geordy Van Es
Deck Chief: Jacob Callahan

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