Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Also see David's review of King Lear
none too fragile theater tackles First Love in a production that plays through October 24, 2015.
Playwright Charles Mee tackles first love from a different direction. In his one-act play, Mee has an older couple finding first love. They are both in their seventies. Harold (Robert Hawkes) is a street person. He wears pants and coat with holes and rips and he looks completely disheveled. He's approached by Edith (Anne McEvoy) who demands he share space on his park bench. She wears a faded raincoat, a scarf on her head and pushes a cart, which holds many of her worldly possessions. This is not the stuff love, first or last, is typically made of.
Mee wrote long, long speeches for each character. In these speeches, each defends his or her stand on the current topicusually something related to love or relationships.
Edith confesses she has never really been in love. But she is falling in love with Harold. She wants to look pretty for Harold, so she changes into a red dress, which she stores on a branch of a tree in the park. She adds a bit of makeup, combs her hair and starts the process of seduction.
He agrees to go back to her place. They talk, dance and kiss. He talks a long time as he strips down to his briefs and lies down on her bed. She pulls a blanket about her shoulders and climbs on top of him. [The lights do not dim.] But after this episode, he withdraws physically and emotionally from Edith.
In truth, Harold is the definitive curmudgeon. He's not sure what he wants. But he thinks about certain things he likeslike lying buttocks to buttocks in bed with someone else. When he gets what he wants, he wants something else. In truth, at this point in his life, this is the best he's going to get.
Edith is desperate to have him as a lover or husband. She introduces the subject of marriage and he, of course, runs.
Rachel Roberts plays all of the supporting rolesa waitress, pianist/vocalist, flower girl and tightrope walker. At one point while Edith and Harold sit on the bed in Edith's bedroom, Rachel walks onto the playing area, sits at the piano and plays and sings "Young and Foolish," "(I Love You) for Sentimental Reasons" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered." The most poignant moment comes when Harold starts to sing "September Song," which is from Knickerbocker Holiday and is about an older man falling in love with a much younger women. The lyrics include the lines, "Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few, September, November, and these few precious days I'll spend with you." How romantic. But Harold fights his own romanticism and his need for Edith.
I've seen Rachel Roberts in other show. In this production she proves, once again, there are no small roles. She's excellent in each slice of life.
First Love is romantic, funny, sad and perfect for reflection on one's own tattered loves.
The set by Sean Derry and Alanna Romansky flows effortlessly between the park and Edith's placea room or an apartment.
Sean Derry (director) has given the production a tight pacing. Both of his actors have extensive experience, yet he brings them to the best performances I've seen them give.
In remembrance of your first love, take a look at Edith and Harold's stumbling with their first. Who knows, your first love may be in front of you.
First Love runs through October 24 for none too fragile theater at 11835 Merriman Road, Akron, Ohio, enter through Pub Bricco. For more information, visit nonetoofragile.com. .
The company's next show will be Neil LaBute's Bash (The Latter-Day Plays), November 6-21, 2015.
- David Ritchey