Picture a kindly-looking older man — late 60s? early 70s? — futzing around with his storm windows in New Jersey, when inclement weather blows in an attractive older woman, carrying news from church.
Turns out they're both into the baseball game that's on TV, and Gus (Edward Sarafian) is a widower, and Amanda (Karen Grassle) is a widow from Tennessee who is visiting her daughter in town. A rather predictable set-up, yes, but not humdrum or trite.
Both of them are fiercely independent and set in their ways, but the mutual attraction they feel is stronger than either of them can fight. As the relationship progresses, we learn more about their pasts and their particular quirks. The story follows their romance through marriage and beyond, with lots of laughs along the way.
The sharp repartee saves the show from getting sappy, and there are enough clever plot elements to hold our interest. Thankfully, no one gets Alzheimer's, and no one has a heart attack or dies of cancer or some such.
Much credit for the show's success goes to Sarafian and Grassle, both of whom have long resumes from theater and television. Accomplished veterans that they are, their comic timing is impeccable, and their chemistry together superb. Sarafian's deadpan delivery suits his character and endears him to us; he manages to avoid the triteness of the gruff old guy with the heart of gold.
Grassle does a brilliant turn as Amanda, with priceless expressions and body language to match. Her gestures and tone conveyed subtle nuance of character, even in a piece given to snappy dialogue. She reminded me of Meg Ryan, or perhaps where Ryan might arrive in 30 years. Both she and Sarafian make it all look effortless, and yet you know it's made possible only by their years of experience.
What: "Southern Comforts," by Kathleen Clark, presented by TheatreWorks
Where: The Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
When: Through March 30, with 7:30 p.m. shows Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays, and 7 p.m. on Sundays
Cost: $20 to $56
Info: Call (650) 903-6000 or go to www.theatreworks.org
This story contains 402 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.