.The Sacramento Bee .................................................................Tuesday, August 3'rd, 2010
'Old Love' shows how deep romance can run across decades
Theater review: By Jim Carnes jcarnes@sacbee.com

David Silberman, left, and Judy Jean Berns star in B Street Theatre's "Old Love," by Norm Foster. Photo by Erin Island.

Buck Busfield is spreading the love at B Street Theatre this season. The first offering of the 2010-11 Mainstage series was "Love Child," which closed July 25. Its second, "Old Love," opened Sunday.

Like wine, some things improve with age. "Old Love" is better than "Love Child" - and not just because its two actors portray only about half-a-dozen characters instead of nearly two dozen. The Norm Foster comedy, quirky as it is, delivers more consistent laughs and provokes more thought and a deeper appreciation than did Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton's theatrical farce.

B Street company members Judy Jean Berns and David Silberman star as Molly and Bud, respectively, in the production which Busfield directs with just the right feel for its unique humor. Playwright Foster is a favorite of Busfield's, B Street having produced his plays "Mending Fences," "The Affections of May," "The Foursome" and "The Melville Boys," among others. His dry humor and dark sensibilities play well in Busfield's hands.

The story spans three decades and half a dozen meetings between Bud, a salesman for a company owned by Molly's husband, Arthur. Each is married at the time, and although Bud becomes infatuated with Molly from their first encounter, he never makes a serious move until both are free. She alternates between being amused and annoyed by his interest.

The play moves forward and back through their 25 years of sporadic encounters, mostly manufactured by Bud, with each actor portraying significant figures (Silberman also plays Molly's husband, Arthur, and Berns portrays Bud's wife, Kitty, among other characters). Catherine Frye's simple and serviceable set design provides the locale for home interiors, company Christmas parties and a cemetery. Paulette Sand-Gilbert's versatile costumes allow actors to adopt new characters with the switch of a tie, the donning of a suit coat or the change of a scarf. The actors mentally change characters just as swiftly and efficiently.

Major life events are enacted or recounted through monologues, with the actors directly addressing the audience. Included in their stories are his divorce, her husband's unfaithfulness and, of course, Arthur's passing after 34 years of marriage. "It was a long and painful death," Molly says. "And it wasn't pleasant for him, either." Berns delivers that line so perfectly that later, when the real truth of it comes out, its sting lingers after the laughter.

Foster's plays are insightful but sometimes too obviously clever. In "Old Love," he creates two mature characters who have lived and yet must learn to live again, in the moment.

Silberman, who shone as Mitch Albom's dying mentor Morrie in the Sacramento Theatre Company production of "Tuesdays With Morrie," is excellent as the persistent suitor Bud. He invests the character with such humble humanity that you have to root for him. "Hard work results in success," Bud has always believed, and, boy, does he work at getting Molly's attention. He's a man who won't give up and she's a woman who won't give in. Ultimately, someone has to give. Bet on the guy who hits on a woman at her husband's funeral.

OLD LOVE 3 1/2 stars

What: A comedy about romance, marriage and friendship by Norm Foster

When: Continues at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays; 2 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 5 and 9 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 12

Where: B Street Theatre Mainstage, 2711 B St., Sacramento.