Out & About: 'The Last Romance' is outstanding dramatic-comedy
The recent wave of superb spring weather underscored the fact that Maine’s summertime is quickly approaching. The same can be said for the arts and entertainment calendar as the fall-winter-spring seasons wrap up for most producers and presenters, clearing the way for summer.
It’s a week of seasonal sayonaras for several of southern Maine’s performing arts organizations. In professional theater, an outstanding production of Joe DiPietro’s “The Last Romance” is the last offering of the 2012-2013 season at The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn.
Two somewhat similar musical ensembles are also wrapping up their seasons this weekend. St. Mary Schola, which specializes in instrumental and vocal music of the pre-Classical era, exits 2012-2013 with two concerts, Friday in Portland and Saturday in Falmouth.
Renaissance Voices, an all-vocal ensemble with a similar focus, ends its season Saturday in Portland with a program devoted to French songs.
Tricky Britches, a rising Port City roots band, is releasing its second CD this month, and the public is invited to this Saturday’s party at Portland’s One Longfellow Square.
‘The Last Romance’
It’s never too late for love – or heartbreak. That’s the poignant and powerful message delivered by the final play of the season at The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn. Written by Joe DiPietro, a Tony Award-winning Broadway playwright, “The Last Romance” is a dramatic comedy about rediscovering the joys – and real-world complications – of love in later years.
Both of the principal characters are in their 70s. The protagonist is the son of Italian immigrants, a widower who loves opera and walks for exercise every day. The object of his affections is a lady who takes her ugly little chihuahua to the dog park every afternoon.
I loved “The Last Romance” when I saw it last week. DiPietro’s dialogue is scintillating, his characters are engaging and his story is compelling. Director Janet Mitchko Schario gets bravura performances from a pair of wonderful veteran actors. P.J. Benjamin’s Broadway credits date back to the 1950s. Playing opposite is his longtime real-life wife, Louisa Flaningam. Their onstage chemistry is amazing and delightful for audiences.
Another top actress is Andrea Gallo, who plays a protective sister and dramatic foil to the widower.
The Public Theatre, 31 Maple St. in Lewiston, presents “The Last Romance” through May 12 with 7:30 performances Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Call 782-3200.
St. Mary Schola
St. Mary Schola is a leading musical ensemble that specializes in music of the pre-Classical era. Featuring both period instruments and voices, it is directed by Bruce Fithian, a longtime professor at the University of Southern Maine School of Music.
Included among the Schola’s accompanying instruments is a theorbo, an exotic-looking Renaissance string instrument that was a forerunner to the modern guitar. Timothy Burris plays this curious instrument, which looks quite formidable but sounds very gently. Another soft instrument from that era is the harpsichord, played by Fithian.
The Schola is wrapping up its 2012-2013 season this weekend with two performances of a program titled “O Primavera.” These springtime concerts lean heavily on English composers. Thomas Weelkes and Thomas Morley, whose careers bridged the 16th and 17th centuries, account for six of the songs.
England’s best-known composers from a century later, Henry Purcell and George Friederic Handel, will also be heavily represented. The Schola will also perform works by Italian musical pioneer Claudio Monteverdi and German musical genius Johann Sebastian Bach.
Two performances of “O Primavera” are slated: May 10 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Luke’s Cathedral, 143 State St. in Portland, and May 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, 43 Foreside Road in Falmouth. For more info, visit stmaryschola.org.
Renaissance Voices is a superb, 21-member a cappella vocal ensemble that is best known for performances of early European music in southern Maine, but the group also sings more recent repertoire. This coming Saturday’s annual spring concert features both.
Music director and conductor is Harold Stover, a Juilliard-trained organist, composer and musicologist who has been music director at Woodford’s Congregational Church in Portland for many years and also teaches at the Portland Conservatory of Music.
The title for Saturday’s program is “Vive La France.” For the ensemble’s major work, Stover has picked “Trois Chansons” (“Three Songs”) by Claude Debussy, a French composer whose heyday was about a century ago. Clement Janequin, a Renaissance musician from Paris who was well known in his day for writing songs, is another featured composer.
Unique to Renaissance Voices, selections from poetry will also be interpolated throughout the concert. These poetic interludes are often quite funny and provide an interesting add-on to the music.
The concert is slated for 8 p.m. May 11 at Williston-Immanuel United Church, 156 High St. in Portland. For more information, visit renaissancevoices.org.
One of Portland’s newest bands is making tracks fast and showing up everywhere it seems. Most recently I ran into Tricky Britches busking on Congress Street during last Friday’s art walk, but they’ve also been in more prestigious and better-paying venues all over Maine, New England and even Europe.
Not bad for a group that got started only four years ago. Rooted in old-time country music, with a bluegrass kick and the bounce of a street-corner jug band, Tricky Britches performances display down-home harmonies, while their original material harkens back to the group’s humble beginnings on hometown sidewalks.
Tricky Britches formed in 2009, playing on the street simply as a means of paying for a road trip. Members include Jed Bresette on guitar and bass, Seth Doyle on mandolin, guitar and harmonica, Tyler Lienhardt on fiddle and washboard and Ryan Wilkinson on tenor banjo, guitar and bass. All four men share the vocal duties.
Asked to name their influences, band members come up with a varied lineup: John Hartford, Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers, Grateful Dead, Everly Brothers and American traditional folk music.
In the past year or so, they’ve focused more on songwriting and original material. Tricky Britches’ two CDs to date have comprised mostly original songs. The first was “Hard Fought Day,” which was released in 2011. The newest is “Good Company,” which goes on sale this month.
You’re invited to the CD release party, which is slated for May 11 at 8 p.m. at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757. Two other local groups are scheduled to perform: Tall Heights and Ghost of Paul Revere.