Insight Theatre Company Brings Love Story For An Older Generation To Stage With “The Last Romance”


Tommy Nolan and Joneal Joplin try to spark a little romance in “The Last Romance” at Insight Theatre Company. Photo: John Lamb

Playwright Joe DiPietro has fashioned a great idea with an older singer sad that he didn’t get his chance with the Metropolitan Opera striking up an octogenarian romance with a woman he meets in a dog park. Add the novelty of the singers’ younger self hanging around (mainly to lead in and out of scenes with an aria) and the man’s slightly younger sister and you’ve got a love story mixed with family dependency.


Maggie Ryan as Rose tries to discourage Tommy Nolan as Carol from seeing her brother in the Insight Theatre Company production of “The Last Romance.” Photo: John Lamb

Veteran actor Joneal Joplin plays the 80 year old Ralph Bellini and is directed by another veteran actor and director, Alan Knoll. Jop is charming and flourishes the role- as he always does- with excellent delivery and a true knowledge of the character he’s playing. An easy charm and attention to his fellow actors is a key to his years of his success and he does not disappoint with this stellar performance.


Clark Sturdevant as the young man auditions for the Met while Joneal Joplin as Ralph reminisces about that day in “The Last Romance” at Insight Theatre Company. Photo: John Lamb

As his younger self- in the playbill described as “the young man”- Clark Sturdevant is superb as he handles the snips of arias with ease. He merely walks on stage and sings or occasionally hangs like a specter observing these people in their 70’s and 80’s still trying to figure out life and romance.  The arias chosen are classic including Mozart, Offenbach, Verdi and the most popular, “Fra Quest’ Ansie” from “Pagliacci.” As Ralph’s sister, Rose, Insight’s Artistic Director Maggie Ryan does a nice turn as she is mainly indignant with Ralph’s lack of attention to her and then, in turn, upset with the attention he is paying to a woman he has met in the dog park.


Maggie Ryan as Rose tries to some agreement with Joneal Joplin as her brother Ralph in the Insight Theatre production of “The Last Romance.” Photo: John Lamb

Visiting the park without a dog may seem strange but perhaps Ralph finds it easier in his dotage to hang out in the dog park instead of trying to find romance in the younger world of visiting bars. One day he spots Carol and her Yorkie and strikes up a conversation. He weaves a certain magic over her until their relationship begins to blossom. Tommy Nolan as Carol was a bit uneven on the night I saw the play- either she was having a few problems with lines or she was so into this older character that she was having some dramatic memory lapses. She’s very comfortable for the most part but between a little twitching and some odd pauses, it didn’t quite ring true for the character.

Mention should also be made of her Yorkie who we get to see in one scene and then at curtain call- Peaches in the play, Oscar in real life. Very nice work and even gave Jop a nice little nose lick on cue. I also had a few script problems despite the lovely premise. Some of the dialogue seemed a bit stilted and sometimes predictable.  However, Alan Knoll has done wonders with the weaknesses in the script and brought us an overall satisfying production.


Joneal Joplin as Ralph and Tommy Nolan as Carol in “The Last Romance” at Insight Theatre Company. Photo: John Lamb

The technical crew does fine work as the Landon Shaw set design worked very well as did the lights of Geordy Van Es. Teresa Doggett’s costumes are well conceived and a very nice sound design by Robin Weatherall. “The Last Romance” plays at the Kranzberg through March 18th as presented  by Insight Theatre Company. Give them a call at 314-556-1293 for tickets or more information.

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