2 charming theater vets make Tipping Point's 'Old Love' irresistible
April 16, 2014

By John Monaghan Detroit Free Press Special Writer

Thomas D. Mahard and Ruth Crawford in 'Old Love' at Tipping Point Theatre. / Howard and Charlotte Meyer

Though they have clinked champagne glasses at a couple of Christmas parties over the years, Molly and Bud don’t really start to talk until the day of her husband’s funeral. It is here that Bud, interrupting her graveside farewell, makes it clear that he would like a dinner date — after a respectable period of mourning, of course.

That’s the setup for Tipping Point Theatre’s “Old Love,” a play that, like its impetuous male lead, doesn’t waste any time. The two-person comedy is blessed not only with a witty script by Norm Foster but also Ruth Crawford and Thomas D. Mahard, two of the area’s most respected actors, who lend it grace, good humor and genuine emotion.

The play jumps back and forth in time, beginning with Molly and Bud’s first meetings. Crawford’s Molly is a former nurse with a caustic, off-kilter sense of humor and casual sexiness. Bud is a new employee at her husband’s company, and he’s eager and awkward, especially when Molly grows irate because she sees a woman flirting shamelessly with her husband.

That woman is Bud’s wife, who is also played by Crawford, this time with a pronounced twang. She agrees with Bud that he is a hard worker but also believes that he doesn’t have the ambition or social skills to climb the corporate ladder. They eventually divorce. Bud dates off and on over the years but is haunted by those meetings with Molly. With her husband departed, Molly is reluctant at first to get involved with Bud. (She even calls the police when he lobs stones at her window after midnight.)

That she gradually succumbs to Bud’s insistent wooing is testament to Mahard’s charm. In the hands of another actor, Bud would be a good candidate for a restraining order. By the end of the show, each of the actors will have played at least four distinct roles. These include the older and younger versions of Molly and Bud, their spouses and even Molly’s son and daughter-in-law, who don’t think that a sensible woman of Molly’s age should be interested in romance. Playwright Foster obviously feels differently about amour among the senior set — to the delight of Tipping Point audiences.

The show is both life- and love-affirming and a testament to the old saying about good things coming to those who wait. At under two hours, “Old Love” doesn’t stick around long enough to wear out its welcome.

“Old Love” is Tipping Point’s third comedy in three years by Canadian playwright Foster. (“Looking” and “The Love List” were the others.) His nearly 40 plays have examined modern relationships in the style of Neil Simon or Woody Allen, but without the offputting New York neuroticism.

Daniel C. Walker’s set is composed of a series of burnished wood risers. Crawford does her costume changes behind a screen, using just a scarf or piece of jewelry to channel an entirely different character. Mahard performs similar magic with a tie or suit coat he produces from a triangular chest in front of the stage.

Director Lynn Lammers celebrates the relative simplicity of “Old Love” by keeping the focus where it belongs: on the performances.

Other shows might be more meaningful in terms of relationships, but few will leave an audience happier.

Contact John Monaghan: madjohn@earthlink.net