A setting so intimate that it feels like you eavesdrop at late night bistro tête-à-têtes. Incandescent pace that feels like the director juggles stars. Performances so convincing that, though each actor plays multiple roles, you commiserate and swoon for each one. Circumstances and a conclusion that confirm that love, wasted on the young, can transform an otherwise nondescript, run-of-the-mill schlep into an unlikely Romeo and an otherwise emotionally cloistered widow into an unlikely Juliet. If romances that feature rocky roads, tender eddies, and high wire endings are your cup of tea, then Norm Foster’s “Old Love,” directed by Kari Hayter for Little Fish Theatre, is for you.
Foster structures this tale of the quixotic courtship between Bud (Don Warburton) and Molly (Yvonne Robertson) with episodes that hopscotch back and forth over a couple of decades. Nipping him in the bud, she doesn’t remember their first two meetings at a company Christmas party; he does, big time. She’s a butterfly that darts around this wallflower. He’s married to Kitty (Robertson), she’s married to Arthur (Warburton), his boss. His wife is a never-satisfied harridan who hates his bottom rung reluctance to climb the company ladder. Her husband has a few skeletons in the closet; one’s a lulu. Time passes, sadness accrues. They continue to run into each other.
Crisp and lapidary, the production skirts, it sparkles. It’s unimaginable that Warburton and Robertson can move so effortlessly from character to character. Especially Warburton who, if you meet him on one his business trips, you think he’s the paragon of dweebs. If, though, you see him in the presence of Molly, you marvel at his sudden brashness, confidence and, most of all, eloquence. He nails the patience with which Bud nurtures for decades his love-at-first-sight glimpse of Molly.
Young or old, happy or sad, Robertson is vivacious, stylish and not a little sexy. It’s easy to see what Bud saw in her. What did she see in him? The persistence of honorable intentions. She moves with chameleon ease from the needy poodle that is Kitty to the indifferent cat that is Molly (who for decades won’t coddle Bud). Marvel how, in one moment, she can Valley Girl yammer as Kitty about his yucky tie and, in the next, as Molly, get stopped in her tracks by a devastatingly nonchalant comment by a stranger about her sadness.
Entertaining, moving, and almost unbearably consoling, this production proves that anytime is the right time for love, irrespective of age, circumstances, and the decades it takes for a woo-ee to catch up to the woo-er. What grabs and won’t let us go is not so much the way the production ends (we see it coming a mile away) but rather the steps along the way. Though Molly didn’t have a clue (Bud did, though; we love him for it), the lyrical trajectory of her and Bud comes straight out of Frank Sinatra: “We’re on the road to romance, that’s safe to say, but let’s make all the steps along the way.” It’s those steps which makes this such a memorable production.
Performances are 8pm, Fri. & Sat., 7pm, Sun, 7/10, and 8pm, Thu., 7/21. Tickets are $22-$25. The show runs until July 23. The Theatre is located at 777 Centre St., San Pedro. For more info call (310) 512-6030 or visit www.littlefishtheatre.org.