Granite’s ‘Old Love’ proves love is worth waiting for
April 16, 2014

By TOM VERDE Special to The Sun

 

Ah spring! Mother Nature’s alarm clock. That time of year when “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” as Tennyson once put it. Well we hate to argue with you, Al, but the thoughts occasionally occur to older folk, too.

That’s the theme of the Granite Theatre’s latest production, “Old Love” playing now through May 4. This snappy comedy, by Canadian playwright Norm Foster (a favored warhorse in the Granite Theatre’s stable of dramatists), recounts the sometimes awkward, sometimes tender, reliably hilarious pursuit of an aging divorcee, Bud Mitchell (David Jepsen) for the affection of an equally aging, albeit less-than-interested widow, Molly Graham (Beth Jepsen).

The story unfolds through a series of flashbacks in which Bud and Molly interact and narrate, setting up the scenes where their younger selves, played by Jim Doherty as Young Bud and Stephanie Rodger as Young Molly, meet at office Christmas parties and other business-related functions. She’s the boss’s wife, he’s the new salesmen at a successful firm, started by Molly’s husband, Arthur (Ryan Sekac). It’s clear from the get-go that Bud and Molly are married to selfish spouses.

During the first flashback scene, we meet Bud’s wife, Kitty (Ann Gestrich), a social-climbing schmoozer who cares more about her husband’s taste in ties and social status than his devotion. Arthur, we quickly learn, is a philandering weasel, who is good at business but bad at covering his tracks when it comes to the various women he lures between the sheets with his money and his power. But that was 25 years ago.

Fast-forward to the present and Bud still can’t get Molly out of his mind, even though she barely seems to remember his name, let alone his bumbling charms. Still you have to admire a guy who has the gumption to hit on a widow at her husband’s funeral, as Bud does, much to Molly’s shock and annoyance. Asked by Bud to dinner as Arthur is being lowered into his grave, she replies, coldly, “I just buried my husband!” “That’s why I thought you’d be free for dinner,” is his comeback.

The script is full of such snappy one-liners which leaven what is, at its core, a somewhat sad story of two people searching for love in all the wrong places. Luckily, Bud never gives up on winning Molly’s heart — a heart she tenderly wears on her sleeve, despite her witty sarcasm (“I became an environmentalist,” declares the elder Molly, recalling the rough years with Arthur. “I started recycling vodka bottles.”)

Yet at the same time, Molly is keenly aware of how tragic her situation is. “This is the story of a messed-up life,” Molly confesses early on in the play. At another point, she admits, “I am afraid of wanting.”

Both Beth Jepsen and Rodgers deliver compelling performances in their respective turns as Molly. Jepsen’s Molly is world-weary and all but ready to throw in the towel when it comes to hiding the inevitable wrinkles and sags that plague a woman of her age. Rodgers’ Molly is jaded and clever, yet “sparkling wit,” she admits, “means nothing without someone to bounce it off of.” David Jepsen’s Bud is likable and resigned to finally making love work out for a change, while Doherty’s Young Bud is entertainingly clumsy in social situations, yet redeemingly self-assured when it comes to finally confronting Kitty, played by Gestrich with audience-hissing shrewishness.

Directed by David Jepsen, the production is visually spare. Single pieces of furniture, placed here and there against a black backdrop, set the various scenes. But this is a play that doesn’t need much more. The characters, and the crackling dialogue, are enough to convince us, young and old alike, that love is worth waiting for.