Out & About: ‘Crossing Delancey’ is delightful, thoughtful romantic comedy

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Spring is the season for love, at least according to poets and songwriters, and romance is definitely in the air as The Public Theatre of Lewiston wraps up its season with “Crossing Delancey,” one of most delightful and thoughtful comedies I’ve seen in years. Performances run Thursday through Sunday.

Another organization wrapping up this weekend is St. Mary Schola, an early music ensemble that will appear Friday in Portland with a program titled “Ode to Music.”

Also ending the season is the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, which will exit with Giuseppe Verdi’s famed “Requiem Mass,” augmented by four solo singers plus two choral ensembles. Performances are slated for Saturday in Lewiston and Sunday in Topsham.

Ronda Dale is a Portland singer-songwriter who will be debuting her new album of original music on Saturday.

‘Crossing Delancey’

Torn between two men, conflicted between two cultures: That’s the dilemma faced by Izzy, the central character in “Crossing Delancey,” Susan Sandler’s 1984 romantic comedy. A splendid production of this excellent play is the final offering of the season at The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn.

The setting is New York City in the 1980s, and the action oscillates between two milieu. First there’s the Lower East Side, home to half a million Jewish immigrants in the early half of the century and still a hub of America’s Jewish culture. It’s where Izzy grew up and where her beloved grandmother still lives. Then there’s sophisticated, urbane uptown Manhattan, where Izzy hopes to find happiness.

Delancey Street, the physical northern boundary of the Lower East Side is the symbolic demarcation between the two cultures. Izzy came from the Lower East Side, but she aspires to marry a best-selling novelist who lives Uptown. But her love is more chimera than real, and he hardly knows her name.

When Izzy’s grandmother enlists an old-time Jewish matchmaker to introduce her to a “nice Jewish boy” from the Lower East Side, the conflict becomes acute.

I loved this play and its five actors. Deanna McGovern is convincing as the conflicted Izzy, a headstrong woman who eventually works through her multiple dilemmas with both chutzpah and grace. Tops in the character department are Carol Schweid as Izzy’s lovable, garrulous grandmother and Marina Re, who gives an over-the-top interpretation of the matchmaker, busybody and savant.

Of the men, I liked Simon Hilton as the haughty, disdainful object of Izzy’s romantic fantasies, and Ben Rosenblatt as the “nice Jewish boy” who has his heart set on her.

Over the past 24 years, I’ve seen about 50 plays at The Public Theatre. “Crossing Delancey” is one of the warmest and most satisfying.

The Public Theatre, 31 Maple St. in Lewiston, presents “Crossing Delancey” May 12-13 at 7:30 p.m., May 14 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and May 15 at 2 p.m. Call 782-3200.

St. Mary Schola

St. Mary Schola is a small ensemble of about 20 singers and instrumentalists who specialize in music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Schola is ending its concert season on Friday with a performance of a program titled “Ode to Music.” The ensemble is directed by Bruce Fithian, a harpsichordist and professor at the University of Southern Maine School of Music.

The two biggest items on the program honor St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians, Henry Purcell’s “Ode to St. Cecilia” and George Frideric Handel’s “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day.” Both are musical settings of poems.

Other items on the Schola’s program include works by Hildegard von Bingen, Orlandus Lassus, Claudio Monteverdi, Johann Sebastian Bach, Francesco da Milano and Richard Dering.

Catch the St. Mary Schola at 7:30 p.m. May 13 at the Cathedral of St. Luke, 143 State St. in Portland.

Midcoast Symphony Orchestra

Giuseppe Verdi was the consummate composer of operas in the 19th century. Much less known are Verdi’s non-operatic compositions. Among the biggest of these is the “Requiem Mass,” a monumental work scored for large symphony orchestra, four solo voices and two choirs.

It was written in memory of poet Alessandro Manzoni, whom Verdi much admired, and first performed in 1874 with the composer on the podium on the first anniversary of his death.

Due to its immense scope, the “Requiem Mass” only gets an occasional production. Due to its length – well over an hour – it’s also typically programmed as the sole item on a concert. Nominally written as part of the Catholic liturgy, most contemporary performances are concerts for secular audiences.

That’s the story this weekend when the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra ends its 2015-2016 season with a complete concert performance under the baton of maestro Rohan Smith.

The “Requiem Mass” is quite operatic in nature, with the four solo voices representing unnamed archetypal characters and the choruses representing responses and reflections.

Four professional singers have been engaged: soprano Rachele Schmiege, alto Rebecca Ringle, tenor Kevin Ray and bass Gustav Andreassen. They will be joined by two vocal ensembles, the Oratorio Chorale under the direction of Emily Isaacson and the Vox Nova Chamber Choir under the direction of Shannon Chase.

Program annotator Mary Hunter, who plays violin and chairs the music department at Bowdoin College, comments: “This work mixes opera and mass, secular history, and sacred commemoration. Those mixtures are evident at every turn in this magnificent piece of dramatic music.”

The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra presents the “Requiem Mass” twice this weekend: May 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Franco-American Heritage Center, 46 Cedar St. in Lewiston, and May 15 at 2:30 p.m. at the Orion Performing Arts Center at Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham. Call 371-2028.

Ronda Dale

Girl with guitar. Lived places. Been places. Done things. Writes songs. Sings them.

That’s a quick summary of Ronda Dale, a singer-songwriter whose latest home is Portland. In the years that she’s been living in Portland, Dale has been a member of several original music groups, most notably Truth About Daisies. Now she’s spreading her own wings with the upcoming release of an album titled “Someone Like Me.”

I’ve listened to a few of her songs, and they’re in varied styles and very appealing. “Gettin’ Movin’” boasts a propulsive beat, “19 South” is quietly retrospective and introspective and “Rythm Pretend” tells a story in three-quarter time, quite a rarity these days.

Catch the CD release party for Ronda Dale’s “Someone Like Me” at 8 p.m. May 14 at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757.

“Crossing Delancey” is an unusual and thoughtul romantic comedy that wraps up the 2015-2016 season at The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn this weekend. (Janet Mitchko Schario)

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